Welcome to another installment of My Family’s Favorite Recipes!
If my daughter had her way, we’d eat pasta at every meal. Lasagna, mac and cheese, chili mac–she’s not picky, she’ll devour any of them. About once a week I give in to her demands, and the dish I most often make is this one, which she calls “That Pasta with All the Vegetables and White Sauce” because I’ve never come up with a catchy name for it. Similar to but much lighter than a vegan Alfredo, it’s perfect for my family because it fulfills my daughter’s desire for noodles and my need for vegetables. In fact, it contains twice as many vegetables as pasta, a good thing in my opinion.
E got lucky this week because I made it twice. Since it’s always been one of those “throw in a little this and a little that until it tastes good” dishes, I didn’t have exact ingredient amounts, so I had to play with the recipe a bit to get to where it would work without my giving you vague instructions like “If it looks too dry, add more milk” or “Keep adding garlic until you repel vampires.” There’s still a little of that, but if you follow the basic recipe, you should come out with pasta and vegetables that are coated in a light, flavorful sauce that tastes surprisingly rich for being so low in fat. It’s one of those “home-cooking” dishes that’s good enough to serve to company.
The recipe below uses a full pound of pasta and makes a lot; besides being hearty eaters, my family likes to have leftovers to fight over for the next day or two. If you’re cooking for one or two, you may want to make half a recipe, so I’ve made that easy for you by including a printer page for the 4-servings version of the recipe. And don’t miss the note on how to make this a Ridiculously Easy recipe, which, truth be told, is how I usually make it.
Pasta and Vegetables with White Sauce
- 1 pound whole wheat rotini pasta or gluten-free pasta
- 1 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas or 1 can, rinsed and drained
- 1 head broccoli about 1 pound, cut into small florets and stems reserved for another use
- 1 head cauliflower about 1 pound, cut into florets
- 2 cups plain unsweetened soy milk or other non-dairy milk
- 6 cloves garlic peeled and pressed
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- generous grating of black pepper
- 5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch or potato starch
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt or salt-free seasoning or to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to instructions on package. About a minute before it's done, add the chickpeas and cook briefly to heat them through. When the pasta is al dente, scoop out and set aside a cup of the cooking water. Then drain the pasta well and return to the pot or a large serving bowl.
- While the pasta is cooking, steam the vegetables until just tender. Add them to the pasta.
- While the pasta and the vegetables are cooking, make the sauce: combine in a medium saucepan the soy milk, garlic, herbs, and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until pasta is done. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and the nutritional yeast. Stir the starch into 1/4 cup of cool water and add it to the sauce, stirring well. Increase heat and cook until the sauce boils and thickens slightly. Check seasonings and add salt to taste.
- Pour the sauce over the pasta and vegetables and stir gently to coat. If the pasta needs more moisture, add a little of the reserved pasta water. Sprinkle with extra red pepper flakes if desired and serve immediately.
The pasta absorbs the sauce as it sits, so keep the reserved pasta water to add moisture when reheating leftovers.
To make this a Ridiculously Easy recipe, use two 12-16 ounce packages of frozen vegetables. I like to use combinations such as California blend or Italian blend. The easiest way to do this is to use extra water when cooking the pasta and add the vegetables to the pasta water about 4 minutes before the pasta is due to be ready (according to package directions). After the water returns to a boil, cook the pasta and vegetables about 4 more minutes or until pasta is al dente, adding the chickpeas near the end. Drain well and proceed with Step 3.
Make a zestier version by stirring in some kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, or roasted red peppers when you add the sauce.