One of life’s true joys is a big bowl of twirly pasta slathered in a luscious cream sauce. It’s simple, filling and exudes comfort in one happy dish. But those velvety sauces can be super heavy, plus, since they’re made with loads of cream and cheese, they’re about as big a no-no to a vegan meal plan as can be.
But our vegan pals needn’t be deprived of the rich texture and noodle-y goodness that comes with a creamy sauce, like this Alfredo. In fact, it couldn’t be easier to throw together a sauce that’s just as flavorful and satisfying as its cream-based brethren. And the secret behind it may already be in your refrigerator.
Seriously! Hummus is a perfect stand-in for a thick sauce on any dish. It’s packed with protein, iron, vitamin B and loads of other healthful nutrients, but most importantly, it’s just plain delicious. I’ve made a creamy vegan pasta sauce using spicy hummus, roasted red pepper hummus, and garlic hummus, but if you opt for plain hummus, you can build in any flavor you like.
No matter what you add to your hummus to make it yours, the key here is mixing it with a little reserved pasta water (here’s why you should save the water every time you make pasta). Without it, the hummus will remain a thick paste and will clump all your noodles together in a big mess. The water thins out the hummus and makes it nice and saucy and smooth—just like a standard cream sauce.
For my recipe below, I added in fresh lemon zest (using one of the three easy methods for zesting lemon) and some crushed red pepper to plain hummus, because in my world, there’s no such thing as too much lemon or spice. But the sauce is actually good enough on its own without any flavor boosters at all. Swap in any toppings you like. Peas would be delicious! Just have fun experimenting with you favorite standard pasta ingredients.
Try it out for yourself!
Creamy Hummus Pasta
(Makes 4 servings)
8 ounces uncooked linguine
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup plain hummus
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
3 cups fresh baby spinach
Step 1: Cook the pasta.
In a 6-qt. stockpot, cook linguine according to package directions for al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water; return linguine to pot.
Step 2: Start the sauce.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix hummus, lemon zest and crushed red pepper. Slowly stir in pasta water until sauce has reached desired consistency. Pour hummus sauce over linguine, toss gently to combine.
Step 3: Finish it off.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add tomatoes; cook and stir until softened, 2-4 minutes. Add garlic; cook and stir until tender, about 1 minute (do not allow to brown). Add to pasta and hummus mixture. Stir in spinach until just wilted, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.
Even if you aren’t vegan, after you’ve tried it, you might not miss that heavy alfredo at all. So keep your fridge stocked with plain ol’ hummus and feel the joy from a dairy-free, nutrient-rich sauce to slather all over your favorite noodles.