Creamy zucchini and mushroom pasta with thyme and lemon

When I first went vegan I went through a phase of “veganizing” everything I’d previously loved to eat so I could continue to enjoy it. Funnily enough, I’d never really eaten creamy pasta dishes much before, as I’d never really liked them…. but in a burst of creativity I experimented, and this dish was born, and I grew to love creamy pasta….!

The first time I made it I used zucchini and mushrooms, and sometimes varied it up by adding asparagus. But while I was living in Thailand, neither zucchini nor asparagus were available, so I made do with broccoli, and that works just great as well. You could really use pretty much any veg you like in this, but I prefer to use those crisp, mild-flavoured veggies that push the flavour of the sauce to front and centre.

Here’s how to rip off a creamy pasta dish that might not fool a non-vegan, but will certainly satisfy them…. 🙂

Flavour: Elegant and savoury

Serves: 2 as a main meal

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 large zucchini or 2 medium ones
  • 150g oyster mushrooms (you could substitute with shimeji mushrooms, which also work great in this, but really, any mushroom will do – and don’t go without!)
  • half teaspoon salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast (leave the quantity up to your palate)
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • quarter cup dry white wine
  • generous grind of black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, as fine as you can get it
  • pasta of your choice – I like to use penne, but really any kind is fine

Optional extras:

  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • non-dairy cheese – a couple of spoons of tofutti cream cheese works great as well
  • slow-roasted cherry tomatoes (add these right at the end, just before serving)

Directions:

  1. Caramelise your onion in a large frying pan (follow instructions here for melt-in-your-mouth results)
  2. While your onion is caramelizing, prepare the rest of your ingredients: cut your zucchini lengthways, and then into thin semicircles; if you’re using broccoli, cut it into slim florets; if you’re using asparagus, cut it into 4cm lengths; if you’re using oyster mushrooms, tear them into strips
  3. Add your garlic to your onions once they’re caramelised, stir, and cook for another 2 minutes
  4. Turn heat up to high, and add your zucchini and mushrooms (if you’re using asparagus, add it now in stages, starting with the tougher parts; if you’re using broccoli, add it later), stir, and cook for another 3 minutes – get your zucchini and mushrooms slightly browned
  5. Now is the time to start cooking your pasta
  6. Add your thyme and lemon zest, stir in, and cook for another minute
  7. Toss in your salt and nutritional yeast – stir well, coating all your veggies
  8. Gradually add your soymilk, stirring as you go to incorporate it – you’ll end up with a thin creamy sauce that will gradually thicken
  9. Once your mixture starts to simmer, turn the heat down to low, and add your white wine – stir well (if you’re using broccoli and/or non-dairy cheese, now is the time to add it)
  10. Once your sauce has reduced and thickened to a creamy consistency and your veggies are cooked through but still al dente, add a generous grind of black pepper, and remove from the heat
  11. Stir your pasta into the sauce, and note how it thickens – you can use a little of the leftover starchy water from cooking the pasta to loosen it up if it’s not saucy enough at this point
  12. Serve right away, and enjoy preferably with a glass of chilled white wine 🙂

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