This is comfort food at its best. An extra rich and creamy pasta dish filled with lots of fresh veggies, it will for sure make all your family happy. There are a few steps in the making of this primavera pasta bake, but prepare it ahead and just throw it in the oven when ready to eat to make a weekday dinner more special, quick and easy. Satisfy your craving with this bomb of taste, but in an healthier way.
When still in college, my dad would sometimes bring me to his favorite authentic Italian restaurant called Eduardo in Montreal. He loved going there so much and I would always order the Primavera pasta dish, every single time. There was something in the cream sauce with all those bursting veggies that was hard to ignore. I have been craving creamy white sauce pasta since then and so far, this is my best non-dairy version I have made. As satisfying as the classic version, this primavera pasta bake brings me back in time with every bite.
How to make this primavera pasta bake:
There are 3 parts in the making of this dish. And here we go!
1. Make the garlic cream sauce.
It is better to soak the cashews for at least 2 hours before blending the sauce, especially if you don’t have a high speed blender like Vitamix or Blendtec. If you don’t have time to soak them, boiling them in water for 5-10 minutes and then draining, is a good alternative.
You will have to roast whole heads of garlic to make the sauce. If you have never made this, then you have an amazing culinary discovery just ahead of you! It’s easy to make: remove the extra dry skin layers around the garlic heads, while keeping the whole heads in their shape, meaning that the cloves should still stay attached together. Then, cut the pointy edge of the heads, again keeping the rest intact. Finally, wrap in aluminium foil, put them straight on the oven grill and cook at 400° for about 40 minutes. The result is a delicious creamy garlic paste that lost its strong pungent taste but kept its deep hearty character. You can eat it straight from the cloves! Just press on the base or open the cloves gently with a knife to keep the garlic in its shape. It’s delicious simply spread on crackers with nothing else. Yes, it is that good. But in this case, the creamy garlic is blended with the rest of the sauce ingredients. This deepens the flavor of the sauce and matches perfectly with all the roasted veggies in the bake dish.
2. Cook the veggies and pasta.
This step is very simple. Warm a large pan over medium heat. Add all the veggies to the pan and a little oil or water to prevent them from burning and cook them slowly. The veggies are done when softened and almost caramelized. Set aside until the sauce is ready. You could cook the veggies while the garlic heads are roasting in the oven.
I recommend to stick with the peppers and onions as they add that caramelized and almost sweet taste, but otherwise, this dish is a good one to adjust to whatever you have in your fridge. I love asparagus and peas, since they typically end up in a primavera dish, but how delicious would it be with mushrooms, carrots or even brussel sprouts!
While the veggies are roasting, cook the pasta according to the packaging in boiling water. Drain and set aside.
3. Mix everything and cook in the oven.
The cooked pasta, roasted veggies and creamy sauce are combined in a baking dish and topped with an easy panko breading. Cook in the oven at 350° for about 30 minutes.
Tips for making this pasta bake:
– Cook your noodles al dente! They will keep cooking in the oven, so make sure you don’t over cook them first.
– As seen in the picture, I prefer to use whole wheat pasta. It might look better with white pasta, but the packed with fiber whole wheat version is much more filling and satisfying.
– The noodles will soak up the sauce a bit while cooking in the oven, so make it saucy enough! I recommend using 16oz. of noodles, but if you want to get an extra saucy pasta dish, you could use a little less pasta.
– To bring a more complex taste to the whole dish, cook the veggies slowly until slightly caramelized. The veggies won’t be crunchy anymore, but the browned bits add lots of deliciousness to the bake.
Are you looking for another decadent creamy pasta sauce, but lower in fat? Then, check out this Lemony cauliflower alfredo recipe!
Garlic cream primavera pasta bake
For the garlic cream sauce:
- 1 1/2 cup raw cashews soaked for at least 2 hours, rinsed and drained
- 3 garlic heads
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 cup almond milk unsweetened and unflavored
- 1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 2 peppers, red, orange or yellow sliced
- 1 1/2 cup frozen green peas thawed and well drained
- 1 red onion or sweet onion sliced
- A bunch of asparagus edge removed and chopped
- black pepper to taste
For the pasta bake:
- 16 oz whole wheat short pasta of your choice cooked al dente (it will cook more in the oven)
- 1 cup panko breadcrumb
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp nutritional yeast
- black pepper
To make the sauce:
- Pre-heat the oven to 400°.
- Remove the dry skin layers around the garlic heads, but keep the cloves all attached together. Cut the pointy ends. Wrap in foil paper and cook for 40 minutes. See blog for detailed description.
- Once the garlic is cooked, removed the garlic paste by either pressing at the base or gently cutting the sheet surrounding the clove.
- In a blender, blend together the soaked cashews, roasted garlic, nutritional yeast, almond milk and salt. The sauce is blended enough when a silky and very smooth texture is reached. Set aside.
- Warm a large pan over medium heat. When warmed up, add all the chopped veggies and cook, mixing regularly, until soften and caramelized. Add a little bit of water or oil to prevent them from burning. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix the panko breadcrumb, nutritional yeast and salt. Add black pepper to your taste.
- In a large bowl, mix the cooked pasta, veggies and sauce. Transfer to a large oven-safe baking dish. Top with the panko mix.
- Cook in the oven at 350° for 30 minutes. Enjoy!