Brighten your spring meals with this easy pasta dish. It has the creamy lemony goodness of a dish I used to pay big bucks for in DC, but is much healthier and only $1.58 a serving using organic ingredients.
Active time: 20 minutes. Total time: 25 minutes. Serves 4. Vegan. Gluten free if using gluten-free noodles.
1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews (55 grams)
2 lemons or 1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3 cups whole wheat rotini or other pasta of your choice (170 grams)
6 cups water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 small onion (6 ounces or 170 grams)
1 bunch rainbow chard (8 ounces or 225 grams)
- Quick soak cashews by putting them in a heat-proof measuring cup (think Pyrex) and adding water to the 3/4 cup mark, then microwaving on high for two minutes. (See alternative methods in the notes.)
- Stack chard and cut along the stems. Cut off the bottom 1/2 inch of stems and compost. Cut stems into 1/2 inch pieces. Chop onion.
- Put olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add chard stems and onion, stirring to coat pan bottom. Cook until onion is soft, about eight minutes. Chop chard leaves into pieces about 1/2 x 3 inches and set aside. Mince garlic and set aside.
- Put rotini in a medium pot with water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring rotini to a boil over high heat in a covered pot. Remove lid the moment pot boils, reduce heat to medium, and cook for two minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook for six minutes. Drain, reserving a cup of pasta water to thin sauce if needed.
- Set up your food processor with the stainless steel blade. Add cashews with soaking water. Zest lemons, setting zest aside for garnish. Juice lemons and add juice to food processor with cornstarch and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Process on high for a minute or two until the sauce seems as smooth as it will get.
- Add chopped chard leaves to skillet, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes until chard is wilted. Stir in cashew sauce and cook until thickened, about two minutes. Toss with rotini. Taste and add lemon zest or salt if needed. If sauce is too thick, stir in a little pasta water.
- Serve hot garnished with lemon zest. Keeps refrigerated for 5 days.
- If you don't want to microwave the cashews, just pour hot water over them to the 3/4 cup mark and let them soak for five minutes. If you have time, put cashews and cold water into the food processor, pulse a few times, and let soak for an hour.
- Try using a high-powered blender instead of a food processor to make the cashew sauce.
- Thanks to Deanna and Jenni at An Officer and a Vegan for the quick-soak technique with the cashews. Brilliant!
My luscious recipe has just one third the calories of home-cooked Fettuccine Alfredo, with less than a quarter of the fat. The Alfredo has a whopping 30 grams of saturated fat -- 149% of your daily needs! My vegan version has just 2 grams or 8%. You'll get twice the fiber and loads of vitamin C too.
Make a difference when you cook
- Stay healthy and slim. Cooking a cashew-based sauce at home compared to a cream, butter, and cheese one saves a lot of calories and fat, as the nutritional information above shows. Yet the difference is even more stark if you eat out. The Center for Science in the Public Interest reports that Fettuccinne Alfredo plus a side of bread has 2,270 calories! That's more than my daily calorie allowance without a single vegetable or fruit! No wonder CSPI called it "heart attack on a plate." Restaurant meals have bigger portions and often more salt, sugar, and high-fat ingredients.
- Save money. Creamy Lemon Pasta with Rainbow Chard costs less than the tip would be for the Alfredo at the Olive Garden: $1.58 vs. $12.99. Multiply that by four servings and you'll save $45.64 cooking at home, plus savings from a tip, taxes, and transportation costs. At non-chain restaurants in Alexandria, a serving costs about $19, making the savings almost $70 before tax, tip, and transportation.
- Stay smart. The nutritional information tells most of the story, but cooking at home also gives you a chance to use organic ingredients, reducing your exposure to toxins. For growing children with developing brains, pesticide exposure can lead to a drop in IQ points.