I am a recovering low-carb dieter. The key to my freedom? The beauty of plant-based eating.
In another life, one of the most sure-fire ways to get me off the low-carb wagon was a huge bowl of steaming pasta placed within 50 yards of my deprived existence. Being Italian, foregoing the foods I grew up with was always a challenge. Pasta was a staple in my household, and my mother would frequently use the dish as a vehicle to clean out the fridge of vegetables at the end of the week. It was my favorite meal as a child. But, like so many of us, I was convinced I had to forgo “evil” pasta and other forms of carbohydrates to get to my goal weight and be “healthy” as an adult.
Fast forward to now, when I regularly indulge in plant-based pasta meals and enjoy living again. One of the reasons why it is so easy for me to adhere to a plant-based diet is because I love carbohydrates. And who doesn’t?? (I’m not sure I’d trust anyone who answered “Me” to that rhetorical question.)
This dish is inspired by my husband’s favorite pasta at Brio, a restaurant chain specializing in Italian. The original dish is a creamy roasted red pepper sauce with sautéed mushrooms, chicken, and a substantial dousing of cheese. I wanted to recreate this familiar favorite for him in a veganized version that would hit the spot. I’m calling it Pasta Bri-No because it does just that without any cream, cheese, or chicken (and, if you choose gluten-free pasta as I did, it’s GF too)!
This is a great introductory vegan dish for omivores who may be suspicious of vegan foods or are unconvinced that anything creamy or rich can be achieved with plant ingredients. You can also make a big batch for the week. Hubby has since requested this for his lunches three weeks in a row. Win!
Update: This dish is extra delicious with a few dollops of my Herbed Almond Tofu Ricotta stirred in. Try it!
- One 16 oz. bag of GF pasta (or any pasta you like, I love Trader Joe’s brown rice pasta)
- 1 block extra firm tofu
- ½ cup raw cashews, soaked in warm water for at least 3 hours or overnight (if you have a Vitamix or Blentec, you can omit the soaking)
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
- Two 12 oz. jars of roasted red peppers (make sure they are jarred in water not oil)
- Himalayan Sea salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1½ cups sliced mushrooms
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin
- ⅔ cup of vegetable broth
- 1 cup of roasted, salted pecans (for pecan parmesan topping, or you can omit and top pasta with nutritional yeast)
- Prep the tofu and the cashews. Soak your cashews as directed and press the tofu for at least an hour under heavy cookbooks you don’t use because you have the internet now.
- Cook the tofu. Cube the tofu into roughly one inch cubes and preheat a frying pan over medium high heat. Spray with some cooking spray. Cook the tofu until browned on one side. Check it after a few minutes and flip when browned. When browned on both sides, transfer to a bowl and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Set aside.
- Prep the mushrooms and onions. In two separate pans, sauté the onions and mushrooms over medium heat until cooked through and slightly browned, stirring occasionally.
- Turn on the pasta water and make your sauce. Salt and heat the pasta water. In your blender, add the drained cashews and vegetable broth and blend until no longer gritty. This takes about two minutes in my Vitamix but could take longer in a lower powered blender.
- Add the roasted red peppers, garlic powder, onion powder, 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast, and about ⅔ of the sautéed onion to the blender. Reserve the remaining onion for later. Blend for a couple minutes or until well combined and smooth.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, you can also add a tablespoon of sugar at this time, and then reblend everything.
- Add mushrooms, onions, and tofu and set aside sauce. Stir the mushrooms, remaining onions, and tofu into the sauce and set aside.Cook the pasta according to package directions.
- Make the pecan parmesan if using. I have to credit Angela Liddon on Oh She Glows for this one. Simply combine the roasted pecans, 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast and 1 tbsp of olive oil in a food processor until crumbly.
- Combine cooked pasta and sauce. Once cooked, drain your pasta and place it back in the pasta cooking pan. Add the sauce and stir to combine.
- Plate and serve. Divide the pasta into bowls. Top with the pecan Parmesan and chopped chives, and extra nutritional yeast if you like. Serve and enjoy!