The thing that really convinced me to become plant-based (at least the superficial thing) was discovering how I can use cashews to make things creamy. Blending cashews with marinara to make a creamy pasta sauce was the first dish I made that used this trick and I’ve been smitten ever since. Now I throw cashews in everything.
I’ve played around with adding cashew butter to my backpacking meals and it often works great. You can buy little packets of cashew butter at natural food stores or online, and if you mix the cashew butter with some warm liquid at camp, you can add that creaminess to lots of different dishes. This Creamy Grits With Kale and Sunflower recipe is one of my favorites.
But as much as I love the simplicity of adding a little cashew butter to my meals at camp, sometimes it doesn’t work as well as I want it to. I tried using cashew butter and powdered tomatoes to replicate my favorite sauce on a backpacking trip last summer, but I just couldn’t get the same creaminess that I was looking for.
When I got my dehydrator, a whole new world opened up to me! I’ve had fun blending up my favorite creamy sauces and seeing how they dehydrate. The results have been impressive.
For this recipe, make the sauce, blend it and pour it on dehydrator sheets. When it is dehydrated, it’ll end up looking like fruit leather, but more brittle (if it’s not brittle, it needs a little longer in the dehydrator). In a completely dry blender, blend up the tomato sauce leather to create a powder. This step is important- without blending it the sauce doesn’t rehydrate as nicely.
The pasta comes together easily at camp. You could definitely rehydrate the sauce in a separate pot from your pasta pot, but to minimize dishes I’ve found that you can just sprinkle the tomato sauce powder directly into the pasta cooking pot. You’ll want to set aside some of your pasta cooking water so that the dish doesn’t turn into soup. I take some of the water out and then slowly add it back in once the pasta finishes cooking and the sauce is rehydrated (see instructions for more details).
The recipe is written for two large servings, but you might want to double or even triple it in order to make it worth the effort of dehydrating and blending the sauce into a powder. You can store the powder in the freezer to ensure a longer shelf life.
Pasta with Vegan Tomato Cream Sauce
Yield2 large servings
Prep Time / Cook Time/
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- pepper, to taste
- 8 ounces angel hair pasta
- Can opener
- Cutting board
- Food processor or blender
- Medium pot
- Parchment paper or nonstick dehydrator sheets
- Zip-top bags or other containers
- Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until lightly browned. Remove from heat.
- Scrape the garlic and oil into a blender along with the tomatoes, water, salt and cashews. Blend until the sauce is very creamy. This could take anywhere from one to five minutes depending on the strength of your blender.
- Pour the sauce back into the pot and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper.
- Pour the sauce on dehydrator trays lined with nonstick sheets or parchment paper. Spread the sauce thinly and evenly on the trays with a spoon. Dehydrate at 135 degrees F for about 8 hours, or until the sauce is completely dehydrated. The sauce will look like fruit leather when it’s done, but when it’s cool it should be brittle and break apart easily. If it bends instead of breaks, dehydrate it for additional time.
- Place the sauce in a dry blender or food processor and blend into a powder. Store the sauce powder in a zip-top bag.
- Boil 4 cups of water. Add 8 ounces of angel hair pasta and and boil for one minute. Scoop out about a cup of the cooking water and set aside. Mix in the tomato sauce powder and stir until the sauce is relatively smooth. Cover with a lid. After 5 minutes, remove the lid and stir the pasta again, adding the reserved pasta water a little at a time if the pasta is too dry. Serve immediately.
Note: This recipe can easily be halved or doubled.