This is a quick, easy, yummy dinner to throw together. You toss some cashews and cheesy sauce ingredients into a blender, boil the pasta and broccoli in the same pot, and then mix it all together. Plant-based mac & cheese is a new favorite at our house! It’s also comforting for people who used to eat dairy. Thanks to Isa for inspiration.
I hope you enjoy this recipe, which is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and yours.
Ingredients ($9 for a large pot)
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours or overnight – $2.00 1 cup vegetable broth – $0.50 1/4 cup nutritional yeast – $0.40 1/4 tsp turmeric – $0.07 1 tbsp lemon juice – $0.10 1/4 tsp paprika – $0.07 1 tsp garlic powder – $0.28 3/4 tsp salt – $0.04 1 pound curly pasta (or your favorite shape) – $2.99 1 bunch broccoli or baby broccoli, chopped – $2.79
Directions for Plant-Based Mac & Cheese
1. In a blender, measure out the soaked cashews, vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, turmeric, lemon juice, paprika, garlic powder, and salt. Blend until the sauce is very smooth.
In a large pot, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then add in the pasta and broccoli. Cook for about 10 minutes or according to package directions, then drain the pasta/broccoli and return to the pot.
Pour the blender sauce onto the hot pasta.
2. Stir it all together in the pot and serve immediately, topped with plant-based parmesan cheese if you like. Enjoy your bowl of plant-based mac & cheese, so easy and filled with love!
Everyone here loves pasta. But as delicious as it is, I can get bored making the same tomato sauce, beans, and greens variety all the time. So I keep trying to come up with variations that are interesting and totally yummy, like this cashew-cheezy, hearty-lentilly pasta dish of comfort for any family dinner. It’s inspired by Isa Does It‘s Lentil-a-roni.
This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours, because if we don’t have a planet to live on, nothing else matters.
Ingredients ($9 for a large pot)
3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight in water for extra creaminess – $1.50 1 1/2 cups cooked brown lentils – $0.69 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth – $0.75 2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped – $0.15 1 tsp salt – $0.05 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp basil – $0.56 Black pepper to taste 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, blended for extra smoothness – $1.59 1 tbsp brown sugar – $0.03 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional) – $0.10 1-2 lbs green and yellow beans – we picked these free from the farm 1 lb of your favorite pasta – $2.99
1. Prepare your ingredients. Soak the cashews overnight (or for at least 2 hours) in water at room temperature, then drain the water. This will make the cashews soft and easy to blend.
Cook the lentils according to package directions (I would usually use a 3:1 ratio: boil 1 1/2 cups of water for 1/2 cup dry lentils). Wash and trim your green and yellow beans.
Blend the cashews and vegetable broth together in a blender until it’s very smooth with no chunks.
2. Make the sauce. In a large pan over medium high heat, cook the garlic, salt, oregano and basil together in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes until the garlic starts to brown. Next, add the lentils and mix well. Use a fork to mash up some of the lentils.
Add in the blended tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add in the cashew mixture and keep cooking for 3-5 minutes more until it’s as thick as you like. Taste and adjust for salt/sugar/acid/pepper.
3. While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add in your pasta. Set a timer according to package directions for how long the pasta will need to boil. When about 7 minutes of cooking time are left on the timer, add the green beans into the water with the pasta.
Drain the pasta and green beans, then pour the sauce over it and give it a good through mixing. Grab yourself a bowl of comforting, nourishing deliciousness!
3/4cupraw cashewssoaked overnight for extra creaminess
1 1/2cupscooked brown lentils
1 1/2cupsvegetable broth
1tspsaltplus black pepper to taste
28 ozcancrushed tomatoesblended for extra smoothness
1-2lbsgreen and yellow beans
1lbyour favorite pasta
Prepare your ingredients. Soak the cashews overnight (or for at least 2 hours) in water at room temperature, then drain the water. This will make the cashews soft and easy to blend. Cook the lentils according to package directions (I would usually boil 1 1/2 cups of water for 1/2 cup dry lentils). Wash and trim your green and yellow beans.Blend the cashews and vegetable broth together in a blender until it's very smooth with no chunks.
Make the sauce. In a large pan over medium high heat, cook the garlic, salt, oregano and basil together in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes until the garlic starts to brown. Next, add the lentils and mix well. Use a fork to mash up some of the lentils.Add in the blended tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add in the cashew mixture and keep cooking for 3-5 minutes more until it's as thick as you like. Taste and adjust for salt/sugar/acid.
While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add in your pasta. Set a timer according to package directions for how long the pasta will need to boil. When about 7 minutes of cooking time are left on the timer, add the green beans into the water with the pasta.Drain the pasta and green beans, then pour the sauce over it and give it a good through mixing. Grab yourself a bowl of comforting, nourishing deliciousness!
Sunflower seed cheese? Don’t laugh. Even our most fanatical mac & cheese fan was going back for thirds of this ingenious and tasty creation. Paired with green beans and plant-based meatballs, sunflower mac & cheese makes a completely delicious and nutritious dinner. We will definitely be making this one again and again. Thanks once more to the brilliant Isa Does It!
1 or 1 1/4 cups raw sunflower seeds, soaked in water overnight – $0.99 1 tbsp olive oil – $0.10 1/2 cup carrots, sliced thinly – $0.46 1/2 onion, chopped – $0.25 2 tsp salt – $0.10 4 cloves garlic, chopped – $0.15 3 cups vegetable broth – $1.50 2 tbsp cornstarch – $0.20 1/4 cup nutritional yeast – $0.40 2 tbsp tomato paste – $0.22 1 tbsp lemon juice – $0.10 1 pound elbows or small shell pasta – $2.99
Green beans and plant-based meatballs on the side (optional)
Directions for Sunflower Mac & Cheese
1. Cover the sunflower seeds in water and soak overnight at room temperature in a small bowl.
In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Cook the carrots, onions, and salt together for about 10 minutes until soft, then add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Scoop the carrot-onion-garlic mix into your blender and add the sunflower seeds, broth, cornstarch, nutritional yeast, and tomato paste. Blend until it’s very smooth, then transfer it back to your pot.
Cook the sauce for about 15 minutes over medium heat, stirring often, until it’s nice and thick. Add in the lemon juice and adjust salt/pepper as needed.
2. While the sauce is thickening, cook up your plant-based meatballs in a pan and bring a large pot of water to a boil, then cook your pasta with the green beans together (a nifty pro tip!) for however many minutes the pasta package says.
3. Drain the pasta and green beans, then mix in all the sauce to create a thick cheesy delicious dinner. Serve your sunflower mac & cheese hot in bowls with meatballs on the side, if desired. It’s also wonderful as leftovers the next day!
Megan graduated from middle school this month – congrats to all the graduates everywhere who had the quarantine graduation experience! Her special request to celebrate at home was this graduation pasta dish – a medley of pasta, garlicky tomato sauce, beans, chick peas, pepperoni, peas, basil, and plant-based parmesan. So delicious – I’m glad she requested it. 🙂
Ingredients ($11 for a large pot to feed 5-6 people)
2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20 4 cloves garlic, minced – $0.15 1 pack pepperoni, diced – $2.99 1 x 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, blended – $1.59 1 can pinto or kidney beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked from dry) – $0.79 1 can garbanzo beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked from dry) – $0.79 1 package mixed pasta – $2.99 1 cup frozen peas – $0.50 7-8 leaves fresh basil, torn up – $1.10 Optional: plant-based cheese or nutritional yeast to your taste Salt and pepper to taste
Directions for Graduation Pasta
1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add in the garlic and pepperoni and cook for 2-3 minutes until the garlic starts to turn golden brown, then add in the blended tomatoes, followed by the kidney and garbanzo beans. Let it start to bubble, then stir and turn it down to medium low to simmer while you cook the pasta.
2. In a separate large pot filled 3/4 with water, bring it to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Chop your basil and prepare your optional toppings.
3. Finally, add the peas to the sauce and stir well. Drain the pasta and mix in one or two scoops of sauce to prevent the pasta from all sticking together. Call people to the kitchen and let everyone serve and decorate their own graduation pasta bowls!
Peas, mint, lemon, garlic, tahini, cumin, salt and pepper. It’s not your typical pasta sauce. If you like pesto, it has the same green creaminess, but without the strong pine nut flavor. This pea puree recipe was inspired by the Tres Green cookbook.
My daughter Megan found this recipe in the book Eat Fresh Food, which is aimed at teen chefs. It’s a fantastic plant-based pasta dish where you use blended zucchini with basil as a cream sauce, and boil some other veggies in with the pasta. I’ve been making pasta for decades and this was a wonderful surprise to me!
3 zucchini, ends trimmed – $2.33 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half – $0.08 1 tsp salt – 0.05 3/4 cup water – free 4 large basil leaves – $1.09 2 tbsp olive oil – $0.50 1 orange bell pepper, sliced – $0.99 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced – $0.99 1 bunch mixed chard, collards, and kale, destemmed and chopped – free from the farm Handful of brussels sprouts, ends trimmed – free from the farm 1 lb fusilli or other short pasta – $1.49 Salt and pepper to taste Optional nutritional yeast or pecorino romano cheese for sprinkling on top
1. Gather, wash, and chop all your ingredients. In a medium pot over medium high heat, boil the zucchini, garlic, salt, and water together. Lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes until the zucchini is tender. Pour into a blender, add the basil and olive oil, and blend together until smooth.
2. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add salt as desired – I put in a small handful – then add the pasta, bell peppers, and brussels sprouts. Cook for 8 minutes, then add the greens and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain the pasta and veggies with a colander and return to the pot.
3. Pour the zucchini sauce over the pasta and give it a good mix. Serve hot. It’s delicious as is, but some of us sprinkle nutritional yeast over top and some of us sprinkle pecorino romano cheese. Enjoy! The extra leftovers also freeze well as leftovers for school lunches.
We had fun deciding what to call these. They’re not meatballs, so are they plant balls? Bean balls? Vegan balls? Neatballs? Despite all the laughs, they’re actually very delicious. Lentils, mushrooms, and a bunch of yummy sauces and spices make for a hearty and nourishing topping for your favorite pasta.
Ingredients ($9 total for a big tray of lentil mushroom balls)
2 1/2 cups brown lentils – $1.69 2 1/2 cups water – free 1 tsp garlic powder – $0.28 1 tsp onion powder – $0.28 1 tsp oregano – $0.28 1 package enoki mushrooms from the farm box, chopped – $2.99 4 tbsp soy sauce – $0.40 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce – $0.30 1 can tomato paste – $0.89 1 tbsp nutritional yeast – $0.10 1/2 cup flour – $0.04 2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20 4 cloves garlic, minced – $0.15 1 15 oz can plum tomatoes, blended – $1.59 Salt and pepper to taste
1. Make the lentil mushroom balls: Cook the lentils and water in a large pot over high heat until it starts to boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and let it bubble gently for 15 minutes. Gather your spices and other ingredients in the meantime.
Next, add the chopped mushrooms, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and nutritional yeast. Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until all the water is absorbed. Then keep cooking and stir in the flour for a few more minutes until the mixture is fairly dry. Make sure it doesn’t burn.
Cool the lentil mixture to room temperature, then form them into meatball-sized balls with your hands. Put on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 250F (not 350F) for 45 minutes. They will be nice and crisp on the outside and a little bit golden-brown.
2. Make the sauce: In a medium pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the chopped garlic. Cook for a 3-5 minutes until the garlic starts to turn golden, then add the blended can of tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let this simmer for 15-20 minutes while you cook the pasta according to package directions.
3. Since everyone in our house has different tastes, I usually serve dinner in all its separate parts, and people can assemble their own plates however they like: pasta, sauce, and lentil mushroom balls. Serve hot, with optional cheese or fresh basil on top if you like. Buon appetito!
My Italian grandparents used to be famous for their gnocchi, and one summer they showed me how to make them. This is their gnocchi recipe as I remember it, except I like to use butternut squash sometimes instead of potato. If you’re looking for healthy comfort food, look no further!
FOR THE GNOCCHI DOUGH: 1/2 butternut squash – $1.29 1 egg – $0.29 1 tsp salt – $0.05 3 1/2 cups flour – $0.56
FOR THE SAUCE: 4 tbsp olive oil – $0.40 4 cloves garlic – $0.15 1 tbsp sage – $0.28 1 cup crushed tomatoes – $0.50 4-5 slices turkey (optional), chopped up) – $0.75 2 cups frozen peas – $1.00 Salt and pepper to taste
1. Make the gnocchi: Poke the butternut squash with a fork all around and roast at 350F for about 1 1/2 hours until you can stick a fork through the neck pretty easily.
Cool, cut in half, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Next, scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl and discard the skin. You’ll only need half of the squash so you can eat the rest separately.
Add the egg and salt and mix them in, then add the flour, mixing it in 1/2 cup at a time. It will come together into a nice dense dough ball. Knead it a few times to make sure it’s soft and uniformly mixed (no chunks of flour or squash).
Break off a chunk of dough and roll it into a thick rope on a floured board. Cut 1″ slices off the rope and slide them over the back of a fork or spoon to make any little patterns you like.
Put the gnocchi on a parchment-lined baking sheet – you can cook from here or freeze for later use.
2. Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, then add the garlic and sage (oregano works nicely here too). Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden but not too brown, then add the turkey chunks (if using) and crushed tomatoes.
Turn the heat down to let the sauce bubble and simmer while the gnocchi cook, then add the peas near the end of the gnocchi cooking time so they defrost in the sauce.
3. Cook and serve: Drop the gnocchi into a large pot of salted, boiling water. They will pop up to the top after a few minutes. After about 10 minutes of boiling, take a large one out and taste it or cut it in half to see if it’s still doughy in the middle. If they’re frozen, they will take longer to cook (up to 25 minutes or so, depending on how big they are).
Once they’re cooked through, drain the water, toss the gnocchi with the sauce, and serve up yummy plates. Top with pecorino romano cheese and freshly ground pepper if you like.
When I don’t know what to make for dinner, I usually throw together some kind of pasta dish. Here we have a lovely garlicky tomato sauce with pinto beans and chopped up greens (baby kale, chard, and spinach), topped with pecorino romano cheese. Most folks went back for seconds!
2 tbsp olive oil – $0.50 4 cloves garlic, minced – $0.15 2 (15 oz) cans of tomato puree – $1.33 3-4 cups cooked beans (I soaked and boiled dry beans but you could also use two cans) – $0.30 1 bag baby spinach, kale, and chard – $1.99 1 pound of spaghetti – $2.99 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (or nutritional yeast for a non-dairy version) – $2.00 Oregano, salt and pepper to taste
1. In a medium pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat, then add the garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the garlic starts to brown, then add in the tomato puree.
2. If you’re using dry beans, bring 2 cups of dry beans in plenty of water to a boil, then simmer for 2-3 hours until the beans are tender, then drain and rinse the beans. Add the beans and chopped up greens to the tomato sauce and mix well.
3. Cook pasta according to package directions, and serve topped with sauce and grated cheese or nutritional yeast. Comforting and delicious!
Stroganoff is one of our regular rotation meals, thanks to my husband’s German-Russian roots. It’s great for a quick weeknight meal that pleases a crowd of hungry stomachs, and the leftovers are delicious too. Feel free to substitute another kind of meat or tofu for the beef if you prefer.
2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20 1/2 onion, chopped – $0.25 1 lb organic ground beef – $5.99 1 container cream of mushroom soup – $1.99 1 pint sour cream – $2.99 2 cups frozen peas – $1.00 1 lb spaghetti or egg noodles – $2.99 4 cloves garlic, minced – $0.15 1 8 oz package crimini mushrooms, sliced – $2.49 1 8 oz package baby broccoli, chopped up – $2.79 Pecorino romano cheese to sprinkle on top – $1.00 Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat, then add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent and soft. Add the ground beef and stir until it’s all broken up and there’s no pink left. In a separate pan, heat the other 1 tbsp olive oil and cook the garlic for 2-3 minutes until it starts to brown, then add in the mushrooms, salt and pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the baby broccoli and cook for another 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the broccoli is a bright green.
2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot filled with boiling, salted water. It’s usually about 10 minutes but check the package directions. Add the mushroom soup and sour cream to the beef mixture, along with the frozen peas, and mix well. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed. Drain the pasta and pour the stroganoff sauce over the noodles, mixing to combine thoroughly.
3. Serve in individual bowls with a side of vegetables (or mixed in if you don’t have picky eaters), with pecorino romano cheese sprinkled on the side or over top. Freshly ground pepper is great here too. This recipe usually provides 2 dinners for 5 of us.