Yep, another pasta dish—but this one’s definitely a departure from pasta salad. A while back, I saw my friend Ali’s recipe, adapted from an Alice Waters pasta dish, for toasted orecchiette with zucchini and corn. It looked wonderful, and I made a note to try it, or something like it. It took me a whole year to get there, but I’m so happy I did.
In the end, this creamy vegan zucchini corn summer pasta ended up being different from Ali’s, mostly because I didn’t toast the pasta, which is the trick-of-the-trade that makes her recipe special. I added a creamy sauce, which is a departure, too, but it’s part of what I love: I have a hard time turning down any type of creamy pasta. The few pasta dishes that made it into Power Plates inevitably involved cashews.
What I like about this “creamy” pasta is that the creaminess is understated. It’s not as rich as most of the vegan alfredos I’ve tasted or made, which is fitting for the heat wave we’re having in New York: it’s comforting, but it feels summery, too.
The lightness of the dish is thanks to the fact that I used Milked Cashews from Elmhurst™. It’s my first time trying the brand, and its signature smooth consistency and richness was perfect for a creamy sauce that’s just light enough.
Elmhurst is a new plant-based option, but the roots of the company stretch back to a time when it produced conventional dairy. The brand has taken an entirely different direction, switching over to plant-based milks and working to create especially flavorful, authentic, nutritious and diverse offerings.
Elmhurst now sells milked cashews, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts, as well as milked brown rice and oats; you can check out all of the varieties here. All of the products are vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, and kosher. They can be found at Elmhurst1925.com and a number of retailers, including Whole Foods (if you’re eager to find a retailer near you, the Elmhurst website has a stockist overview).
In many years of sampling non-dairy options, these are the milks I’ve tried that most closely resemble homemade nut milk. If I didn’t know I wasn’t drinking something straight from the blender (or the nut milk bag!) I’d probably never detect a difference. It’s been a long time since I made homemade nut milk—just a function of prioritizing different kitchen tasks—and it’s been great to have something so authentic on hand.
The milks owe their texture to a special process that results in a lot of nuts or grains per glass of the beverage. The ingredient lists are minimal, and no emulsifiers are used. I noticed when I sampled the milked almonds, cashews and oats (I’m excited to try the others) that each tasted like the base ingredient. The cashew and almond milks are subtly different, just the way they’d be if you blended them at home.
The simplicity of the milks makes them easy to use in either sweet or savory recipes: they’re not overly flavored, so they can be adapted any which way. I was eager to use the milked cashews in pasta to see if I could get a sauce that was creamy, but not dense, and it worked.
You can make the sauce right before the rest of the recipe comes together, or you can make it a day or two in advance. It’ll keep for up to a few days in the fridge, one less thing to do when it’s dinnertime. The rest of the recipe is simple: boil pasta, gently sauté some shallots (or onion), zucchini, corn, and garlic. Mix it together and allow it to simmer in the sauce for a few minutes before serving.
Typically I throw some sort of vegan parmesan all over any pasta recipe, but with this one I stuck to torn herbs and lemon: something bright and simple, so that the sweetness of the zucchini and corn could shine through.
For the sauce:
- 1 1/4 cups Elmhurst Milked Cashews or another plant milk of choice
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour or 1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- A pinch nutmeg
- A generous pinch freshly ground black pepper
For the pasta
- 8 ounces orecchiette or another pasta of choice
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped shallot or red onion
- 2 heaping cups about 1/2 lb chopped zucchini
- 1 1/2 cups corn kernels fresh or frozen and thawed
- 2 large or 3 small cloves garlic thinly sliced
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Small handful each torn or roughly chopped basil and mint
- Freshly ground black pepper and salt as needed
- To make the sauce, blend or thoroughly whisk all ingredients together. Transfer to a small sauce pot. Cook over medium low heat until the sauce is very gently simmering, but not boiling. Reduce the heat to low and continue simmering for 3-5 minutes, or until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Store the sauce for up to 3 days or set it aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions; drain.
- While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot, zucchini, and corn. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the cooked pasta to the vegetables, then add the sauce. Reduce the heat to low, then simmer everything in the sauce. When most of the sauce seems to be absorbed and the dish is creamy but not soupy, it’s done. Stir in the herbs and lemon. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve.
Cashews have always been my go-to for achieving a creamy texture in vegan recipes, but one of the downsides of using them all the time is that it can be hard for folks who don’t have very powerful blenders or food processors to make homemade cashew cream that’s really creamy. The nice thing about the sauce here is that you can start with non-dairy milk instead. I find it easy to blend the sauce before simmering, but if you’ don’t want to dirty your blender, whisking away any clumps is just fine, too.
I’m happy to have a new “back pocket” pasta dish for the summer months. Last summer was the summer of roasted tomato sauce on everything, but I’ve been feeling more sensitive to the heat lately than I was then, and this recipe warms my apartment up less than slow roasting. If you try it, I hope you’ll find it as seasonal and bright as I have.
Wishing you all a sweet end to the week. See you soon with some reads and recipes.
This post is sponsored by Elmhurst. All opinions are my own, and I love these creamy plant-based milks. Thanks for your support!