This is the ultimate spring meal: crisp asparagus and tender peas wrapped with toothy pasta in a tangy lemon cream sauce. It’s silky, fresh, and decadent. Just don’t tell anyone how good it is for you. Swapping cauliflower and cashews for the traditional cream and butter gives you all the creaminess of the real deal while still keeping it plant-based. It’s a win for everyone! If you’ve never tried this trick before, now is the time to do it.
This comes together pretty quickly—you can have dinner on the table in just 20 minutes. As an added bonus, since there’s no actual cream in this, you can heat up your leftovers in the microwave and it’s just as good as when you made it.
- 1 small head cauliflower (about 14oz. florets)
- 1/3 C raw cashews
- 1 C vegetable broth
- 3 cloves garlic
- Olive oil
- Splash of wine or veg broth
- 1 lemon
- 1 t salt
- 1/2 bunch asaparagus (about 6 oz.)
- 1 C peas
- 8oz pasta
To get started, set a large, covered pot of water over high heat (for the pasta). Add 1 T kosher salt.
Prep your veggies: cut or break the cauliflower into florets. Cut the gross woody ends off of the asparagus and discard them. Chop the tasty part into 1″ pieces. Mince the garlic and zest the lemon. Remember, you only want the yellow part of the zest!
Put your florets, cashews, and veggie broth in a small pot. Cover and steam for 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is very soft (you can push a spoon into it).
Once you’ve started the cauliflower, the water should start to boil. Add your pasta and set a timer two minutes LESS than the time called for on the pasta package. When your timer beeps, you’re going to add the asparagus and set the timer for an additional minute. When that one goes off, you’ll add the peas and set it for the last minute. When the time is up, you’ll strain the pasta and veggies, being careful to reserve at least 1 ½ C of the pasta water.
While the cauliflower and pasta are cooking, put a teaspoon or so of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When it’s shimmering, add the minced garlic. Cook it on medium for about 60 seconds, or until the garlic is fragrant. If it sticks to the bottom of the pan, add a little water or white wine to the pan and scrape up anything that stuck. Empty the pan into your blender pitcher.
Roll the zested lemon under your hand on the counter a few times, pressing firmly. This breaks up the little lemon compartments inside to make it easier to juice. Squeeze one half of the lemon into the blender, then add about ½ of the zest and 1 t salt.
When your cauliflower is done (I test it by sticking the back end of a spatula through it), add the contents of that pot to the blender, then blend it all together on high speed for a couple of minutes. Keep blending the sauce until it’s velvety and no lumps remain.
Taste the sauce: if you want more lemon, juice the other half of the lemon into the blender and add more zest. I like mine super lemony, so I added all the zest and juice, but that may be a bit tart for some people. If it’s too thick (which is highly likely), add pasta water about ¼ C at a time, blending between additions, until it’s the right consistency.
Add the sauce to the pot with the pasta and veggies. Stir it up to coat everything. Thin the sauce again with the reserved pasta water, if necessary. Adjust for salt. Serve your creamy, veggie-packed pasta with cracked pepper and a touch of zest on top.
Isn’t it wild that something so delicious can also be good for you? It really is super creamy, and the lemon gives it a perfect little kick. This pasta is great paired with a Riesling or Gewürztraminer —the sweetness of the wine plays really well off the acidity of the lemon in the sauce. Bon appétit!