Categories: Entrees, Pasta
One of my favorite pre-vegan go to meals was a baked smoked gouda and pasta casserole... and I have to admit that I kind of missed it. So after realizing how magical cashews are and how they make an amazing creamy and gooey addition to pasta, I set out to recreate this old favorite. The original recipe was from a cooking light magazine years ago...the page was torn out and neatly encased in a plastic protector and still resides in my recipe binder. My notes are chicken scratched here and there on my years of tweaking to create the perfect taste combo, the kind that becomes one of those amazing food memories. So this was not a task I took lightly. I am pleased to say that this is so scrumptious that I no longer miss the cheese filled classic. This is perfect comfort food, right down to the crunchy bread crumb topping. The colors in this dish are also beautiful, so it's totally something you devour with your eyes too. Love that.
12oz Whole Wheat Penne, cooked al dente
Smoked Gouda Sauce:
- 1c raw cashews, soaked overnight
- 3 heads of roasted garlic
- 1c coconut milk, I used SoDelicious
- 2 TBS cornstarch
- 1 tsp olive oil
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp liquid smoke
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
Pepper, Spinach, and Tomato Mixture:
- 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 TBS olive oil
- 2 – 14oz cans of diced tomatoes
- 2 TBS minced fresh basil
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp agave
- Pinch of black pepper
- 4c baby spinach
Bread Crumb Topping:
- 3 pcs of whole grain bread, torn into 1” pieces
- ¼ c nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- ¼ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
While penne is cooking, prepare the smoked gouda sauce. Place cashews, garlic (I squeeze garlic bulbs out of the heads by hand), 1/2 c of coconut milk and remaining sauce ingredients into a high power blender. Start on a low setting and blend until cashews start to cream up, add the additional 1/2 c milk, then increase speed to blend until the sauce is thick and creamy. It should easily coat a spoon. Taste and add salt if needed. Set gouda sauce aside.
Prepare the bread crumb topping by adding the bread, yeast, olive oil, and salt to a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is a medium to fine crumb. Set aside.
Next is the pepper, spinach, and tomato mix...In a large nonstick skillet, add 1 TBS of olive oil and sauté the onion and peppers over medium-high heat until they start to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Next add the cans of tomatoes, juice and all, stirring well to combine. Add the basil, vinegar, Italian seasoning, agave, and black pepper, continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes until the sauce is reduced down and the flavors have melded. Turn off heat and add the spinach tossing gently to slightly wilt.
Drain the pasta well and put into a large mixing bowl. Add the smoked gouda sauce to the pasta and gently stir to thoroughly coat all the noodles with the sauce. In a glass lasagna pan spread half of the pepper, spinach, and tomato mixture evenly onto the bottom. Top that with half of the pasta and cheese mixture, being sure to make the layer even. Now add the remaining tomato mixture followed by the remaining pasta. Use the back of spoon or spatula, and smooth down this top pasta layer to make it nice and neat. Now sprinkle the bread crumbs generously over the top. Put pan on center rack of oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the bread crumbs are golden brown and crispy. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6-8. This is wonderful served with a fresh salad on the side.