It must be the cold weather that’s piqued my appetite lately, especially for pasta. It’s not that I’m more active this time of year, quite the opposite, I think I just physically require more food in the cooler weather. Completely scientifically unproven and I’m completely okay with that.
I’m of the school of simple thought that states: if you’re hungry, you should have something to eat, and if you’re not, perhaps wait a while until you are, then have something to eat, preferably with green vegetables in the mix. After finding a particularly delicious blend of gluten-free pasta last week with amaranth and quinoa, nearly every other day is pasta and greens for dinner.
The (no-cook) béchamel sauce is made with silken tofu (stay with me here), making this dish taste decadent without being cloying or stodgy. Another perk of the tofu is its fantastic protein content, keeping you satisfied. The sauce is all heightened with a fair amount of lemon––not so much that it’s sour, but enough that it takes away any blandness that the tofu brings, delivering a much-needed punch of brightness.
I’ve complimented this lemony cream sauce with swiss chard; it was just so beautifully turgid and evergreen this week in the produce aisle, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t pick a bunch up. Even the guy that arranges the bananas at my grocery store (who struck up a conversation with me on Sunday about his dislike of the people who pull apart the banana bunches) complimented my chard. It was some fine looking greenery. I do love my dark leafy greens.
In general, I prefer tomato or olive oil-based pasta sauces, but this recipe really did it for me, hitting those acidic notes that I enjoy so much. And, I stepped out of my pasta comfort zone with penne. I’m really more of a twirler, however, penne just seemed right here, giving the rich sauce something to hide in and cling to.
I encourage you to give this a try, even for the non-tofu lovers out there––you won’t taste its trademark papery-bean flavour. This pasta dish is bright, velvety, substantial-yet-light, incredibly simple, and conquers even the biggest creamy pasta craving you’ll undoubtedly get at some point this fall and winter.
- 350g silken tofu ('lite-firm')
- ⅓ cup soy milk or water
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp sea salt
- Ground pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp dried whole or fresh thyme
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and diced, leaves shredded
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ to ¾ lb (6 to 8 oz) penne (gluten-free, if necessary)
- Place a large pot of water on to boil.
- Make the Vegan Tofu Cream Sauce (Béchamel): Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth. Set aside.
- Make the Greens: In a large high-sided saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add diced chard stems, onion, and garlic. Sauté over medium until softened (about 10 minutes). Add shredded chard leaves and cook until wilted. Set aside.
- Cook pasta according to package directions (about 8 minutes for gluten-free penne). Drain (and rinse if using gluten-free pasta). Add back to pot along with prepared sauce and greens. Heat over medium, stirring frequently, until piping hot. Season with salt, if desired. Serve immediately in warm bowls with freshly cracked pepper.