This warm and cozy casserole is filled with spinach, basil, creamy cashew cream, and whole grain penne pasta. It's amazing hot or cold.
“Thy breath be rude," William Shakespeare.
Not yours, your breath is fresh and minty, Shakespeare was referring to winter. If he could feel winter’s breath outside of my door this morning, he might have a few more choice things to say. Brrrr….
But we’re not going to dwell on the cold wind – uh-uh, no we’re not – because my friends, we’ve got this vegan penne pasta casserole to focus on. Check it out!
Chewy whole grain penne pasta, fire roasted tomatoes, meaty red onion, garlic, fresh spinach, aromatic basil, and creamy cashew cream are blended together in a harmonious, delicious, and gorgeous meal.
If this mouthwatering dish doesn’t take your mind off of the weather, then you better pack your bags and jet off to a tropical location stat. Although, I’d make this in the summer and serve it cold, so it’s an all year kind of winning recipe in my book of food.
So here’s the funny thing, I’m not a casserole kind of girl. In my baby boomer/gen x (I’m a mutt) kind of mind, casseroles have always seemed cheesy to me. Yes, most do have a lot of cheese in them, but I’m talking about the corny kind of cheesy. Hmmm, come to think of it, a lot of the casseroles from my past had corn in them too. Darn it!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t like casseroles, because they always had some mystery ingredient in them; and I don’t like surprises, particularly in my food.
However, this vegan baked penne pasta casserole is nothing like the casseroles of my childhood. You won’t find potato chips (I swear it’s happened), or canned vegetables, or mini marshmallows (don’t ask) in this stunner.
This whole food beauty won’t taste like someone just emptied out all of their soon to be expired food into the pan, baked it, and then proclaimed, “I saw Jacques Pépin make this on TV last year.” It happened, I swear!
My vegan penne pasta casserole is a medley of things that belong together. You can actually skip the baking part if you want, especially if you like your pasta el dente. But don’t! If you skip the baking then you’ll miss the crunchy toasted bread crumbs, and the crispy edges of the slightly over baked noodles that are on the edge of the pan. More importantly, when it's baked. all of the flavors marinate and join forces to create an Italian symphony that will light up your mouth!
I’m not exaggerating, this stuff is really that good. In fact, I have a testimonial to share with you.
Yesterday I had got to puppy sit Hooper so I brought a big bowl of my vegan penne pasta casserole to Alex and Max. Alex called me after they ate dinner, and this is what she said. “Hi mom, I just wanted to tell you that that pasta was amazing! Did you put cashew cheese in it? Oh. My. Gosh. I loved it…..” The conversation went on, but you get the gist of it.
Because Alex is used to my cooking, I don’t usually get a complimentary phone call from her about my food, but when I do, well, that means I’ve outdone myself.
If you’re looking for a warm, hearty, but healthy dinner recipe that will help you fake it until you make it through the end of this winter, make this.
You’re going to love the way it makes your house smell like an Italian kitchen, but most of all, you’re going to love how warm and cozy it will make you feel while you eat it. If you have leftovers, take some to work with you and heat it up, or eat it cold, either way, it’s good.
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Vegan Penne Pasta Casserole
- 1 lb 454 g whole grain penne pasta
- 1 tablespoon 15 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 15 ounce 411 g fire roasted tomatoes, chopped
- ½ cup 120 ml water
- 2 teaspoon 5 g Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon ground sea salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 3 cups 675 g baby spinach leaves, pack the cups
- 1 cup 40 g fresh basil leaves, pack the cup
FOR THE CASHEW CREAM
- 1 cup 112 g cashews, soaked in boiling water for at least 1 hour
- ¾ cup 180 ml) water
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon 15 ml fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground sea salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup 30 g bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and cook the pasta according to the instructions. For best results, cook until just al dente.
- In a large skillet heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they begin to caramelize. Approximately 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and water, and seasonings. Stir well. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
FOR THE CASHEW CREAM
- Put the cashews, water, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a high-powered blender and blend until the liquid is smooth and creamy. Approximately 2 minutes. There shouldn’t be any pieces of nuts in the mix.
- In a large bowl or the pasta pot, add the pasta, spinach, basil, tomato sauce, and cashew cream and stir until completely combined. Spread into a large baking pan, cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and evenly spread the breadcrumbs on top. Bake for 10 minutes or until the crumbs begin to turn brown.