I want you to know about this savory, woodsy, satisfying winter pasta with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and lots of herbs, plus creamy dollops of vegan ricotta.
But first I need to tell you about this week…
This week was wild.
On Tuesday, I met a half dozen of my long-time vegan food idols (for me, that’s a thing). I’ve been helping out on Jessica Murnane’s launch team for her new cookbook One Part Plant, and the official launch party was near my office in Williamsburg last week. (This is why I wanted to be in NYC!) It was a cocktails and book signing kind of thing, plus a panel with Jessica and Sarah Britton of My New Roots (who also has a new book out), moderated by—shriek—food writer Julia Turshen.
I managed to talk a few plant-curious friends and coworkers into attending, and they spent the first 20 minutes talking me off a ledge, and convincing me to approach a few of the plant gods orbiting the room. (This was bewildering and amusing to my friends, since, not being vegan food blog enthusiasts themselves, they had no idea who in the crowd was making me turn bright red and choke on my prosecco.)
In the end, I did end up talking to Jessica, Sarah, and Julia (plus lots of other cool people!), and I don’t think I acted TOO weird. 😛 😛
I was also excited to spot Amy Chaplin in the crowd, who I’ve admired from a afar for so long. Like me, she’s a restaurant person; she worked for years in the kitchen at Angelica, the oldest vegan restaurant in NYC. She also wrote At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, which is such a beautiful book (I included it in my roundup of all-time favorite vegetable-centric cookbooks).
As we were chatting, Amy mentioned a private dinner happening on Wednesday at The Finch, where she and Sarah had collaborated with the chef on a special plant-based menu. I ended up snagging the last spot, and spending a SECOND evening hanging out with vegans and vegetarians.
This might not seem like a big deal to you, but for me it was huge. Just being surrounded by so many people who know about nutritional yeast is one thing. But also seeing how people like Amy and Sarah have made a career of sharing healthy, delicious plant-based cooking with the world—it was really inspiring.
One thing I love about the ladies I got to meet this week is that they don’t emphasize all the things you CAN’T eat on a plant-based diet. Instead, they are all about cooking and eating beautiful, delicious food that makes you feel good—sometimes that’s kale salad and sometimes it’s a chocolate chip cookie.
I also love that they really let the plants do the work. A lot of vegan food is all about mock meat and faux cheese, and it’s easy to forget that you can make impressive, satisfying meals that actually come from the ground (not a factory).
That’s kind of what inspired this pasta. It’s a great way to use up that sad-looking sweet potato sitting on your counter, and the earthy mushrooms make it extra hearty. At this point in winter, I think we are all dreaming of bright flavors, and the fresh herbs and lemon liven this pasta up.
Even better, I made this on the hot plate in our Airbnb, with just a cast iron skillet and a too-small pasta pot. In other words, if you have even half a kitchen, you can pull this off.
Speaking of Airbnbs, we are moving out of this one on Wednesday, so I’m trying to use up all the odds and ends in the mini fridge. That included a jar of vegan cashew ricotta, which really took this pasta to the next level. If you don’t have any around, you can add any old ricotta or soft cheese—I won’t know. 😉
If you don’t have shallots, just use part of any type of onion, and throw in a garlic clove or 2 for extra flavor. You could also swap the sweet potato for winter squash if you have some around. For the greens, I used a mix of spinach, baby kale, and baby bok choy, but you can use any quick-cooking greens, like arugula or even chard. This recipe is all about using up what you have on hand.
- ½ lb. dry fettuccine pasta
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tiny shallots, minced (about ¼ cup)
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 medium sweet potato, diced in ½-inch cubes (about 1 ½ cups)
- 5 oz. mushrooms shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin (about 2 cups)
- 3 cups spinach or other quick-cooking greens, roughly chopped (I used a blend of spinach, baby kale, and baby bok choy)
- 1 small handful parsley, finely chopped
- 1 small handful basil, roughly torn
- 1–2 Tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon
- ¼ cup vegan ricotta
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil.
- In a skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil to medium. Add the shallots and sauté until fragrant and soft, 3 minutes.
- Add red pepper and sweet potato and toss to coat. Cover and cook 10–15 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are browned on the edges and soft in the center. Make sure to remove lid and stir every 3 minutes or so to prevent burning.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Be sure to reserve about ¼ cup of pasta water.
- When the sweet potatoes are cooked through, transfer to a bowl and return the skillet to the stove. Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of oil and sauté mushrooms until browned and tender, about 10 minutes.
- Drain the pasta (don’t rinse), and add it to the skillet, along with the greens and the prepared sweet potatoes. Cook just until greens are wilted, about 2 minutes. If the pasta is dry, add a little of the cooking water.
- Drop dollops of vegan ricotta into the pasta and stir to incorporate a bit.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the fresh herbs.
- Serve the pasta immediately and squeeze fresh lemon onto each serving, to taste.