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The best vegan pasta is packed with ingredients you already love

Bowl of pasta on a wooden table
Super Squash, Sage, & Shitake Pasta
Photo: Hardie Grant

If you’re worried about climate change (as you should be), adopting a primarily plant-based diet is one of the best possible things you can do for the planet. It might seem like a daunting proposition if you’ve spent a lifetime eating meat for three meals a day, but it’s easy when you consider that there are literally thousands of foods that are not animals, and you probably love plenty of them already. Take pasta, for example. Almost everyone likes pasta, and almost no one complains when it’s made without meat. Keep a few good plant-based pasta recipes taped to your fridge, and you’ll always have something to cook that’s so delicious, you won’t feel like you’re depriving yourself of a damn thing.

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This recipe comes to us from Plants Only Kitchen, the latest cookbook from Avant Garde Vegan’s Gaz Oakley. To make this a bit more weeknight-friendly, use pre-cut butternut squash that’s been chopped small, which will roast in as little as 20 minutes—just enough time for you to get the rest of the pasta together.


Super Squash, Sage, & Shitake Pasta

Reprinted with permission from Plants Only Kitchen by Gaz Oakley

Serves 4

  • 1 butternut squash, halved length-wise, seeds removed
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 400g (14 oz) whole wheat pasta
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small red chilli
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 8 shiitake mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper

To garnish:

  • Crispy sage leaves (optional)
  • 4 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds
  • Vegan cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the two halves of squash, cut side up, onto a baking tray. Drizzle over a touch of oil and sprinkle over some seasoning then roast for about 55 minutes or until the squash is soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

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Get your pasta cooking in a pan of salted boiling water according to the packet instructions.

Scoop out the cooled butternut squash flesh and place it in a bowl.

Add the onion, garlic, chilli, sun-dried tomatoes, and sage to a blender and blitz until finely chopped. Alternatively, just finely slice everything by hand (blitzing is just that little bit faster!).

Place a large non-stick saucepan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add a touch of olive oil, followed by the onion mixture. Saute with a sprinkling of salt for 3-4 minutes. This is where the sauce will develop a great base flavor.

Add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for another 3-4 minutes, getting them really lovely and golden and crisp... there’s nothing worse than soggy mushrooms!

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Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar, then add the squash flesh and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Cook for 4 minutes, letting the flavours mingle and getting some lovely colour on the squash. Add a small ladleful of pasta cooking water to make it slightly more saucy, then add the cooked drained pasta. Mix everything together, making sure your pasta is cooled nicely.

To make crispy sage leaves for the garnish, simply fry them in a little olive oil for a couple of minutes until crispy.

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To serve the pasta, sprinkle over some pumpkin seed and add the crispy sage leaves to garnish. Top with some grated vegan cheese.

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DISCUSSION

Add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for another 3-4 minutes, getting them really lovely and golden and crisp... there’s nothing worse than soggy mushrooms!”

I cook mushrooms pretty much every week (there’s a lovely cremini/shiitake/oyster blend I buy from the farmers’ market), and I don’t think they’ve ever turned out “crispy”, regardless of the method used. There’s too much water that comes out of them (I clean them by brushing off the dirt with a damp paper towel) for them to really crisp up. So I guess what I’m saying is that even soggy mushrooms are very delicious.