You don’t need dairy to make this luscious pasta, thanks to a couple secret weapons: nutritional yeast and macadamia milk.

By Bridget Hallinan
April 30, 2020
Advertisement
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Pasta primavera is a springtime classic, loaded with vegetables and a creamy, cheesy sauce. Here, Ann Taylor Pittman offers a vegan version of the dish, keeping the vegetables but relying on pine nuts and macadamia (or cashew!) milk to create that luxurious texture without dairy. The end result is a dish that’s simultaneously light, but still feels indulgent—as an added bonus, it’s ready in under an hour, so you can just as easily enjoy it on a weeknight.

Check out some of our key tips for making the recipe below, compiled from the recipe and the Food & Wine Test Kitchen

Stick to Macadamia Milk or Cashew Milk

Of the non-dairy milks, macadamia milk and cashew milk have a higher fat content, and will help you produce a creamier sauce. (If we had to pick, macadamia milk would be our first choice.) Make sure it’s unsweetened, too—accidentally using sweetened nut milk will give a funky (not in a good way) flavor.

Don’t Skip Those Pine Nuts…

Pine nuts not only add flavor to the dish, but have a buttery texture as well, so they’ll contribute to the silkiness of the sauce. They’re pretty expensive, so make sure you don’t let any leftovers go to waste. (Like most nuts, pine nuts that have gone rancid will taste...not great.) We’d recommend storing them in the freezer in a well-sealed container, where they can keep for several months.

…and Don’t Forget the Nutritional Yeast

Pittman writes that nutritional yeast “shoulders the duties of Parmesan” in this recipe, because it brings an umami-rich, cheesy flavor. It’s dead yeast that’s been pasteurized and dried into flakes, and is a popular vegan and vegetarian seasoning. (Try it on popcorn!)

You’ve Boiled Water, You Might as Well Use It

One of the great hacks in this recipe is to use the same pot to cook the fresh vegetables and the pasta. First, you cook the carrots in boiling water; then, you add in the asparagus. When they’re done, you remove them with a slotted spoon, and add in the pasta. (Removing the veggies now ensures they don’t overcook.) Once the pasta is cooked, everything ends up coming together in that same pot with the sauce. 

Save. That. Pasta. Water. 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Make sure you reserve some starchy pasta water for finishing the sauce—it’s key for adjusting the texture and making it silky.

Veggie Swaps

The recipe already calls for frozen green peas, and if they’re easier to find, you can substitute in frozen carrots and asparagus as well. On the other hand, if you have other fresh vegetables available you want to use in the pasta, by all means. Sugar snap peas would work nicely (our non-vegan version includes them, along with pea shoots and chopped fresh chives), and string beans would also be tasty. Just make sure you cook them until they’re crisp-tender.

Use Whatever Herbs You Have

While fresh tarragon will add a lovely herby, licorice-y flavor to this dish, if you don’t have any, fresh chives, parsley, or other tender herbs will work as well. 

Other Substitutions

Regarding breadcrumbs, panko are preferred here because they’re light, airy, and crispy. If you only have traditional plain breadcrumbs on hand, or the heel of an old loaf of bread to use up and make your own, that’s fine too. 

Although gemelli works nicely with this recipe, any short pasta can be used—penne, cavatappi, fusilli, rotini. (Just make sure you cook according to the box instructions.) Whichever you choose, you’ll end up with a comforting pile of pasta.