Oh my, oh my, oh my. If you have been craving a serving of thick, creamy, pasta stodge, and haven't quite managed to find that in vegan form yet, then this Spaghetti Alla Carbonara Vegan Style is just the thing that you have been looking for. The essential vegan comfort food, very tasty, and very filling.
I have been itching to make an animal-friendly version of this dish, which normally contains ham or pancetta. Not that I ever ate it all that much, at least not with the pig flesh, though I probably had veggie adaptations. However, I just love creamy pasta (who doesn't?!), and sometimes a big, heaped serving of the stuff is just what you need to fill your boots. And if you want a quick, impressive supper in less than 15 minutes (other than the time for the cashews to soak), then this is your pick.
Depending on where you are in the world, you should be able to get some kind of vegan ham or bacon rasher substitute for this. I used a pack of Redwood Cheatin Ham which I bought from Holland & Barrett in my local town (so very handy that this store has now opened!). I think this brand worked especially well in the recipe so I would certainly be cooking with it the next time I make this. And I definitely will be making this again, as I want to impress people with it!
But before we go on, just a little side note about the weird fact that some vegans use meat substitutions. If only I could have a £ for every time I've heard people, mostly not vegan, but many vegan people too, who mutter that they don't "get it"! My dear mama included. Why would someone who chooses not to eat meat, eat a substitute for meat? Well I think the fact that the 'real thing' comes only through the death and suffering of another sentient being, while the alternative doesn't, may play a big role in that!
But more so, not all vegans give up meat because they don't like it. In fact, the majority of vegans I know enjoyed meat while they ate it. Yet because they care more about the suffering of animals - and seeing animals as having moral value in their own right - than indulging in their taste pleasure, they choose not to eat it. That doesn't mean their taste buds suddenly change.
If people have grown up eating animal products, it's what they know - though I bet if most children heard the truth about where the animal products come from, they would want to stop eating them. You may become vegan because you don't want to contribute to animal suffering and cruelty anymore, not necessarily because you hate the taste of meat.
If meat substitutes help people to recreate flavours they like, without being part of the horror, that's brilliant, I think. Also - if meat substitutes help people become vegan, how about that for bloody brilliant? Still, many vegans hate meat substitutes, because they never liked meat in the first place, or they have totally gone off the idea of anything that resembles it (I've gone off the smell of it cooking). And that is fair enough too. We don't all come in the same size packaging, after all. But don't tell others they *shouldn't* be eating them!
So there. Mini-rant about the 'meat substitute mumblers' over! No one should feel guilty about eating something that may taste a bit like meat, but comes from plant sources. Onto the recipe.
Firstly, as you can see from the ingredients list, it is amazingly simple. But for a really creamy sauce, soak the cashews at least overnight or for a full working day. In fact, mine inadvertently ending up soaking around 24 hours in the fridge, because I was a day late to make the recipe, so it was super-creamy!
If you have a really whizzy whazzy blender though, or a Vita-Mix, you may be able to get away with just a couple of hours soaking. And you could still give it a go with just a couple of hours if you forget to soak earlier, though the sauce may be slightly grainy. Don't blame me and leave a comment saying you got a grainy sauce, if you do! :)
And if you don't have a really dry sherry in your booze cupboard, you could try a very dry white wine instead. You probably don't need to buy a sherry especially for this, unless you want to. Then you could have a little aperitif tipple before you eat!
Anyhow - please cook, eat and enjoy. And come back and let me know what you think. I just LOVE it when you do that!
Vegan Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
1 cup / 125g cashews, soaked overnight
10.5oz / 300g spaghetti
¾ cup / 180ml unsweetened soya milk (or coconut milk)
1 pack (100g) Redwood Cheatin Ham (or your preferred substitute), cut into small strips
¼ cup / 60ml dry sherry (Tio Pepe is vegan)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
2 garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon olive oil
1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and ease in your spaghetti. Cook according to the instructions, but you want it to be al dente, so take off the heat and drain about 1-2 minutes before the cooking time is over (do frequent taste tests – it should need about 6-7 minutes cooking).
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a frying pan on medium, then add the minced garlic and the vegan ham. Allow the vegan ham to brown a little in the oil, and then pour in the dry sherry so it sizzles. Turn the heat down and simmer a couple of minutes, until the sherry has evaporated somewhat and the vegan ham is nicely covered in it, then turn off the heat and set aside.
3. In a blender, add the soaked cashews (soak at least overnight for the creamiest sauce) and the unsweetened soya milk and keep blending until very creamy. Pulse in the nutritional yeast flakes and the salt. Give a final blend. You may use a little more milk for a slightly
4. Pour the blended cashew sauce into a pan and let it very gently heat up on a low heat, adding the spaghetti into the pan to heat with it. When the sauce and pasta is thoroughly heated, turn it into a large serving bowl. Spoon the vegan ham mixture onto the top, just easing it into the pasta a little in places. Serve with steamed broccoli or chargrilled courgette (zucchini).