Have you had cashew cream? It’s a vegan delight. Vegans like it. Omnivores like it. My cat likes it. (She’s an aspiring vegan–she dragged my chickpea cutlet sandwich to the floor the other day.)

The basis for this dish comes from the Stanford Inn by the Sea, a lodge in Mendocino that I can’t possibly afford. It looks really nice. (Pets are welcome! Though they seem to prefer pot-bellied pigs to cats!) Anyways. Instead of going, Justin and I made their pasta.

Then I made it again for Justine and Travis.

Why yes, that IS a set of russian doll measuring cups!

There are two ways you can go with this recipe. You can be all homestyle, and mix the veggies into the pasta and slop it on a plate (this is what I do). Or you can be fancy, mix the pasta with the sauce, plate it, and then gently arrange the veggies on top (I don’t do this). I will say, however, that the deliciousness of the sauce has a lot to do with the wine you buy. There’s a full cup in this recipe, and you boil it down to boot, so the quality actually matters (I hate to say). I had good results when I used an $8 bottle of sauvignon blanc. I’d say don’t go under $5-6.

I’d also say you should try this especially if you haven’t made a cashew cream before. I don’t really love cashews–but they make a really shocking cream when you blitz them with water. Try it–you may find you don’t need to long after alfredos anymore. I upped the vegetables and added mushrooms for a little heft, but the sauce alone is brilliant–creamy, very savory, almost unctuous.

Fettuccini with Black Pepper Sauce, Asparagus, and Oyster Mushrooms
adapted from Ravens Restaurant (recipe in Vegetarian Times)
serves 4

1 C raw cashews
1 C water
1 C decent white wine
1 T nutritional yeast
1 T lemon juice
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. fettuccini
1 bunch spinach, washed and stems removed
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed and sliced into 1.5″ pieces
1/3 lb oyster mushrooms, pulled into bite-sized pieces
1 t olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a handful of salt.

Blend the cashews, water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and garlic in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain out any solids using a fine mesh strainer (if you have one of those conical ones they use on Top Chef, use that). Discard the solids and whisk in the pepper. Taste for salt–it needs quite a bit. Start with 1/2 t kosher salt and add from there.

In a small saucepan over medium high heat, simmer the wine 7-10 mins until reduced to about 1/3 C. Stir in the cashew sauce and set aside.

Time to start cooking the pasta.

Now, in a big skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Stir the spinach into the sauce–this prevents clumps of spinach in the final product. In the same saucepan over medium high heat, saute the mushrooms with a big pinch of salt until soft, about 5 mins. Set them aside. In the same saucepan, crank the heat to high and saute the asparagus for a few minutes, until it’s a little tender and blistered. Set aside.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 C of its cooking water. Put the pasta back in the big pot with the asparagus and mushrooms and stir in the cashew sauce. Thin with a little pasta water if needed. Serve immediately.