This dish is a way around the “like pasta, don’t like carbs” dilemma and it started when my plant-based teenage daughter set me the challenge of making an alternative to spaghetti bolognese. With parmesan. No pressure! Intriguing problems need intriguing solutions and, in this case, the answer completely flips the norms. I discovered a new cool-looking black pasta made entirely from beans (which is super-high in protein, at 44 per cent), and made a sauce based on slow-cooked broccoli, which gives a lovely flavour and texture. As a bonus, the pasta is almost impossible to overcook — it just stays al dente. One downside is that it can be a bit dry, so I toss it in the pan with a simple tomato sauce to coat it in moisture, then serve the broccoli bolognese on top. The “plant-based parmesan” is surprisingly delicious and easy to make. It has a base of cashews (which are sweet and rich) with nutritional yeast and garlic powder (savoury and fragrant) and a bit of salt. Big plus: you can feel good about sprinkling this generously on top of your meal. Add a hearty grind of black pepper plus a drizzle of good olive oil and the result is a really tasty way for plant-based eaters to swap the carbs and meat of traditional pasta dishes for healthy veges and protein.
Broccoli bolognese sauce
|3 Tbsp||Olive oil|
|500 g||Broccoli, cut into chunks|
|1 stick||Celery, finely chopped|
|½ tsp||Freshly ground black pepper|
|½ cup||Water, or white wine|
|1 ½ cans||Crushed tomatoes|
|2 tsp||Dried oregano|
|¼ tsp||Chilli flakes|
|2 tsp||Miso paste|
Plant-based parmesan (plenty to spare)
|1 cup||Raw cashew nuts, or lightly toasted|
|2 Tbsp||Nutritional yeast|
|½ tsp||Garlic powder|
|1 tsp||Salt, to taste|
|200 g||Black bean spaghetti, Explore Asian brand, available at good supermarkets and specialty food stores (Main)|
|2 Tbsp||Olive oil|
|1 can||Crushed tomatoes (Main)|
Broccoli bolognese sauce
- Heat olive oil in a heavy pot on medium heat and add the broccoli and celery. Let it cook for 5 minutes until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and pepper, then splash in the water. Add tinned tomatoes, oregano, chilli and salt. Bring to a boil then turn heat down to lowest setting and simmer for 1-1 ½ hours until broccoli is soft, especially the stalks.
- Remove from heat and mash thoroughly, then mix in miso to taste.
- Use a food processor to blend all ingredients into a fine crumble. This keeps well in the fridge or pantry
- Cook the pasta in 2 litres of rapidly boiling water with 1 tsp salt added, for 6-8 minutes until soft. Drain and allow to rest for a couple of minutes to dry.
- Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large heavy pan on high. Add pepper and allow to sizzle. Add tomatoes and salt, then stir until bubbling all over. Add the cooked pasta, stirring and tossing it in the pan for about 5 minutes until coated in sauce.
- Serve pasta topped with broccoli bolognese sauce, plenty of ground black pepper, good quality olive oil and cashew parmesan.