Cacio e pepe is one of those dishes that many people love because of its simplicity, but it's not easy to replicate the complex flavor of traditional Italian cheeses. My take on the Italian staple uses nutritional yeast and cashews to create a luscious, umami-packed sauce. And, of course, I didn't forget a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper to keep the "pep" in "pepe."
Technique tip: Make the vegan Parmesan before the cream sauce so you don’t have to wash your blender twice.
Technique tip: This recipe makes plenty of vegan Parm, so you can save some for a rainy day. It lasts for about a week in the refrigerator.
To flash soak cashews for the cream sauce, in a medium bowl, add cashews and cover with boiling water. Soak for 1 hour. Alternatively, soak the cashews in cold or lukewarm water overnight. Drain cashews before using in cream sauce.2.
While cashews soak, make the vegan Parmesan. In a blender, blitz together the raw cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt until all ingredients are blended into a fine, powdery texture. Taste and season with more salt if necessary. Set aside.3.
To make the cream sauce, combine the drained, soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic cloves, pepper and salt in a blender. Add a bit of warm water to help the sauce thin slightly while blending. Continue to blend until smooth and season with more salt or pepper, if desired.4.
Boil water for pasta and cook as directed to al dente.5.
When the pasta is cooked, reserve one cup of pasta water, then drain pasta.6.
Add the cream sauce to the hot pasta. Add reserved pasta water, about 1 tablespoon at a time, into the mixture to help bind the sauce to the pasta. Mix until fully incorporated.7.
Before serving, spoon about 5 tablespoons of the vegan Parmesan onto the pasta and mix thoroughly to combine.8.
Garnish pasta with more freshly cracked black pepper, flaky sea salt and more vegan Parm. Just like the traditional dish, this creamy vegan pasta is best enjoyed right away!