A good sauce should cling to its pasta. Can you achieve that without dairy? Yes, you can! I got the idea for this spaghetti from vegan queso made with butternut squash. Nutritional yeast and pickle juice provide the umami you’d typically get from cheese. You might associate cumin with taco seasoning, but it is also prominent in spicy Xi’an recipes. Top this off with shiitake bacon for another boost of flavor.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil with a handful of kosher salt.
- Cook the spaghetti for 8 to 10 minutes or according to the package’s instructions for al dente.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of the salty pasta water and drain the rest. Keep the pasta in a bowl.
- In the same pot, bring the vegetable broth to a boil on high heat. Add the butternut squash and bring down to medium heat.
- Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the squash is easily mashed with a fork.
- With a slotted spoon, transfer the butternut squash to the bowl of a food processor or blender.
- Continue to simmer the vegetable broth until it has reduced to 1 cup. If it reduced too far, add more broth to make a cup. Add the broth to the food processor.
- As the squash cools, sauté the shallot and olive oil on medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes.
- When the shallot is sweating, add the garlic and ginger. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until softened.
- Add the vegetables to the squash and blend until smooth.
- Transfer the butternut squash sauce back to the pan and keep on low heat.
- Add the cumin, nutritional yeast, pickle juice, and ¼ cup of the pasta water to the sauce.
- Add the pasta to the sauce and toss with tongs to incorporate.
- Keep adding a splash of pasta water as you stir if you’d like it saucier. The sauce should thicken up and stick to the spaghetti. If it is too thin, turn up the heat and stir until it thickens up.
- Divide the spaghetti between four bowls.
- Finish with a spoonful of chile crisp drizzled on top and chopped scallion.
Jenn de la Vega is TASTE's Cook In Residence and the writer behind the blog Randwiches.