One night after a long night at work, Alex whipped us up an impromptu vegan pasta dinner. Rummaging around, he found some canned tomato puree and spaghetti noodles in the cupboard, and a few shallots in the pantry. Digging in the refrigerator, he unearthed some jarred capers and some leftover cashew cream. The creamy, savory pasta that resulted was so good I kept asking him, how exactly did you do that? Of course his response was, I have no idea. He was cooking by intuition. After writing a food blog for seven years and then writing a cookbook, taking notes while cooking is second nature for us, just in case a great idea strikes. But this one caught us on sneak attack.
It took a few weeks to nail down the “lost” recipe, but after making it several times we got it back again. It’s a supremely savory sauce, where garlic, shallots, and capers all work together with the cashew cream to make as much umami as possible in a vegan pasta recipe. So.darn.good. We knew we’d be making this one for years later.
We shot the photographs together, and the preview images looked beautiful. After editing, Alex presented the final photos to me for this post. I couldn’t wait to see the photos of the creamy, comforting vegan pasta marinara so I could remember eating it all over again. Except when we looked at them together, there was something not quite right. The image of the pasta was flat and lifeless. Something was not quite evoking the comforting, creamy umami experience that was the creamy vegan pasta marinara. Both of us looked at it and said, Oh.
It’s difficult to capture emotion in food. It involves a lot of thinking about plates and napkins and forks and THE LIGHT and the mood and vibe and angle and the burnished copper finish on the fork and maybe if that noodle moved a little bit to the left? And even after what felt like a successful shoot, a lifeless photo. It was a little disheartening.
Except, Alex decided to go back to the drawing board with the same photo. He brought it up in Photoshop and this time put a new filter on it. The new filter made the colors shine and brought in a warmth that was missing from the original image. Then, instead of showing the entire plate of pasta, he cropped in so you could see the gooey details of the sauce and the contrasting tangles of the noodles. This time, when I looked at it, the photo said creamy vegan pasta marinara. I loved it.
I tell this story because it’s like life, in a way. How many times do we look at an aspect of our lives and say Oh. It’s not quite what I was expecting. There’s something that’s not quite right. And it’s disheartening.
But what if, like Alex, we could apply a new filter to our lives? What if we had a new filter that enhanced the color and brightness? And what if we could crop in to where we could clearly see the detail (and a little bit of the mess!) and realize that what’s there is truly beautiful?
A simple change of perspective can cultivate a heart of gratitude, if we let it.
And now, to go eat all the creamy vegan pasta marinara. (PS it’s also a fabulous pizza sauce.)
Looking for vegan recipes?
This is a vegan pasta recipe, which stands out from many of our Italian recipes (which typically contain cheese!). Vegan recipes are becoming part of our everyday, though we typically eat vegetarian. Here are a few of our recent vegan recipes:
- Refried Bean Tacos with Chipotle Cashew Cream
- Greek Nachos with Cilantro Drizzle
- Herby Tomato Flatbread with Rye Cracker Crust
- Southwestern Bowl
Looking for healthy dinner ideas?
A top request we get is inquires about healthy dinner ideas. A few of our top healthy dinner ideas:
- Cauliflower and Tomato Coconut Curry
- Veggie Burger with Tart Cherry Salsa
- Raw Falafel Buddha Bowls
- Greek Sofrito Quinoa Bowl
Did you make this recipe?
If you make this creamy vegan pasta marinara, we’d love to hear how they turned out. Leave a comment below or share a picture on Instagram and mention @acouplecooks.
This recipe is…
Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free. For gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta.Print
For a weeknight meal, make the cashew cream in advance.
- For the cashew cream
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 2/3 cup vegetable broth or water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- For the pasta
- 2 large shallots
- 5 medium garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 28-ounce can tomato puree
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup cashew cream (from above)
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 pound bucatini pasta
- Basil leaves, for garnish
- For the cashew cream, place the cashews in a bowl and cover them with water. Soak for 1 hour, then drain. Add the cashews, broth or water, and salt to a blender, then blend on high for 1 minute. Stop and scrape, then add additional liquid if necessary to come to a creamy consistency. Blend for several minutes until creamy and smooth. (Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for several months.)
- For the pasta, thinly slice the shallots. Mince the garlic. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and oregano and gently sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the tomato puree, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a bubble, then reduce the heat and maintain a low simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cashew cream and capers, and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water according to the package instructions. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, slowly transfer the hot pasta to the tomato sauce, tossing to coat. Serve hot, garnished with torn or sliced basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil (required: this is an important component for achieving the creamy, rich flavor), and an additional pinch salt (if necessary).
About the Authors
Cookbook Author and writer
Sonja Overhiser is author and recipe developer of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious, and a recipe developer and healthy & sustainable food advocate behind the award-nominated food blog A Couple Cooks.
Cookbook Author and photographer
Alex Overhiser is photographer and recipe developer of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best new cookbooks” by Bon Appetit, and a recipe developer, photographer, and technical expert at A Couple Cooks.