Let me start off by saying I wear my meat-loving tendencies loud and proud. I was born in Chicago so by virtue of my birthright, I was destined to love all things pig. I probably meat-peaked in college where I thought it was entirely appropriate to dominate the freezer space (in an apartment with five other girls living in it) with giant cases of frozen meat. It didn’t really occur to me that maybe some of those girls didn’t (GASP) like meat and even if they did, the thought of eating frozen burgers for days on end was just sort of gross. But as I’ve gotten older…I find myself eating less meat and being entirely OK with that. In fact, I find myself being drawn to meat-free recipes and I now see vegans as people with one head and not five, which my younger self would’ve seen. But growing up in the Midwest as a kid in the 80s and 90s didn’t lend itself to having home-cooked meals that didn’t showcase a piece of meat as the main event. Now that I have a family of my own, I don't want my son to think every family meal has to have meat, or that it's even necessary for a balanced meal. Which brings me to a night last year, where I found myself cooking for my family and adapting a pasta recipe…to be basically animal-free. (Who am I!?!?). I posted about this experience on my blog, First Bites, and I need to say that since I made this, I have made it again and again. It. Is. That. Good. I have so much confidence in this recipe that I dare any hard-core meat lover to say it would be better, “if only it had meatballs..” It is simply not the case. I had heard from a few of my health-conscious co-workers how amazing this particular vegan dish was. And I admit, I sometimes fantasize myself as this vegan Goddess running around NYC with my soy latte and ordering the tempeh dish for lunch with smug confidence. I have a long way to go, but if anyone is curious about what it’s like to eat a vegan dish, this is a great one to start off with! This dish was awesome. The type of awesome where you can't stop eating it out of the pan before you've served it and if you would've told me this dish had no butter or milk in it, I would have called your bluff. It's almost unreal how creamy the sauce is with only some vegetable stock and a handful of ground cashews. I threw in some mushrooms and extra white wine into the sauce because why the hell not. Jenson loved it. Olly loved it. I loved it. There was a lot of love going round the dinner table this night. And because I didn't want to completely ignore my non-Vegan roots, I added a sprinkle of pecorino to the top of each plate. Just call us the Brooklyn-based family who eats vegan. How's that for a massive cliche? Without further adieu, here is the recipe:
Vegan Butternut Squash Alfredo (from a meat lover.)
- ½ cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
- 1 ½ cup vegetable broth
- 1 ½ cups roasted butternut squash (one large squash or two smaller ones; I bought pre-cut at Trader Joes to save time.)
- 2 tablespoons mellow white miso
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional and I didn't use it.)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dry rubbed sage
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- Several dashes fresh black pepper & salt o taste
- For garnish: For garnish: Extra roasted squash Pepitas, or chopped pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts
- Fettuccine but I used rigatoni because that's what was in the pantry
- - soak cashews for at least two hours, (can just let them sit overnight) or boil them for an hour
- - Preheat oven to 425 F.
- -Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- - Using a large chef’s knife, cut the round part of the butternut from the long part. Slice the round part in half and scoop out the seeds.
- - Brush or spray parchment lightly with oil and place squash pieces, cut side down, on the baking sheet. - Bake for about 45 minutes, or until squash is very tender.
- - When cool enough to handle, scoop out the squash needed for this recipe.
- Once the squash has roasted, bring a salted pot of water to boil for the pasta. When boiling, cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.
- - Meanwhile, drain the cashews and place them in a blender with the vegetable broth. Blend until very smooth.
- - add the roasted butternut, miso, nutritional yeast (if using) and lemon juice. Puree until smooth.
- - While the sauce is blending, start the onions. Preheat a large cast iron pan over medium heat, saute onions in olive oil and a pinch of salt for about 7 minutes, until lightly browned.
- - Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or so, just until fragrant.
- - Mix in the sage and pepper.
- - Then add the wine and salt and turn the heat up to bring wine to a boil. Let boil for about two minutes, to reduce a little.
- -Turn down the heat to medium low. Now add the butternut cream to the pan, and stir to incorporate the onions and everything. I use my soup blender to blend everything together even more.
- Heat through, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. The sauce should thicken a bit. Taste for salt and seasonings. needed for this recipe.
- -I added pecorino cheese....making this dish ALMOST vegan
Do not be alarmed by all the steps! And I highly encourage you to buy pre-cut fresh butternut squash as it saves so much time. I'm also posting a photo of the miso I used and if you don't want to dirty a blender, I used an immersion blender and mixed the sauce in the same pan I had been using.
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