The spring garden isn’t much more than a bare dirt patch with chives poking out of it at the moment, but I do have some peas I direct sowed into the ground and am hoping they’ll sprout and flourish once the sun starts making a more regular appearance. Until then, I’ve been soaking up all the spring-y pea goodness with the snap peas from the market, and they’ve been doing a bang up job. My go-to method for preparing them is a simple sautée in some olive oil with salt, which is how I’ve made them here, served atop a bed of super creamy lemon pasta that’s positively *packed* with bright zesty citrus flavor. And the best part is that this whole dish takes 30 minutes to make from start to finish, making it an equally easy and tasty springtime dinner.
Why Use Cashews For a Cream Sauce?
As for the creamy lemon pasta sauce, the creamy texture comes from cashews which are soaked overnight and then thrown into a blender with some simple and flavorful ingredients like lemons, olive oil, salt, and the like. Do not be intimidated!! If you have soaked things in a bowl of water and/or used a blender before, you can (and should) make this sauce. I started making all my creamy sauces with a cashew base a few years ago, and here’s why:
- Flavor: I honestly find the flavor and texture to be a lot better, and flexible, too! I can adjust the thickness of the sauce by adding more or less broth when I’m pureeing it, and I can adjust the silkiness of the sauce by increasing or decreasing the blending time/speed. I can also thicken it up a bit by adding olive oil in a thin steady stream so it emulsifies and gets even creamier!
- Feels good physically: I really enjoy the fact that I can eat a nice portion of a creamy meal and not feel like I have a large rock in my stomach afterwards (which is usually the case when I eat a dish with a lot of heavy cream or cheese in it 😅).
- More affordable: If you get your raw cashews from the bulk section of the grocery store, it ends up being a lot more affordable than heavy cream and cheese. The financial cost of raising animals is a lot higher than growing a plant, typically.
- Better for the environment: On that same note, it takes a lot more resources to support an animal (feed for the animal, water for the animal, grazing space for the animal, what to do with the waste of the animal, etc), than it does to grow a cashew plant.
That was my illuminating rant about cashews vs heavy cream 🙂 Circling back to snap peas, though—I love sautéing them because they turn this insane vibrant green hue, but if you do it at medium-high heat for a short period of time, they also retain their delightful crunch, which makes for a great textural contrast with the saucy tender penne pasta. They also have a ton of nutrients packed into them along with their signature bright and earthy “green” flavor, like vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K (which is great for bone health!), and fiber. Plus they go so so well with pasta of all sorts, as is evidenced by this pesto and snap pea spaghetti. And if you’re not riding the gluten train at the moment, my favorite gluten-free pasta to use is Banza, and I’ve tested this recipe with it to great success (not sponsored, just really like their GF pasta). And of course it works great with normal wheat-tastic pasta, too! I hope you enjoy this creamy lemon pasta dish and have a lovely spring, my friends!!
Creamy Lemon Pasta with Snap Peas
Creamy Lemon Pasta
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup cashews soaked overnight in a bowl of water
- 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/3 cup warm vegetable broth you can also use water mixed with 1/4 teaspoon salt instead
- 1 tablespoon yeast flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 16 ounces dry penne pasta
Sautéed Snap Peas
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces snap peas poke-y ends trimmed off
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted almonds
Creamy Lemon Pasta
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and sautée until softened and transparent, about 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and stir to combine. Cook until the garlic has softened and is fragrant, about 3 minutes more, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes. (Meanwhile, you can prep zesting and juicing the lemon and chopping the garnishes so they're ready to go once the dish is done.)
- Drain the cashews and place them in a blender with the onion mixture, lemon juice, vegetable broth, yeast flakes, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Blend at medium high speed, and add the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil in a thin steady stream through the small removable hole in the top of the blender while it's blending. Blend until silky smooth, then transfer the sauce to a medium-sized saucepan and set it aside.
- Follow the directions on the box of pasta to prepare the pasta. While it's boiling, you can sautée the snap peas in the next step.
Sautéed Snap Peas
Heat the olive oil in a medium or large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the snap peas and salt and sauté until they turn bright green but are still crunchy in texture (don't be afraid to give it a bite to texture-test!), about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Take off the heat and set aside.
- Towards the end of the pasta cooking time, place the saucepan with the creamy lemon sauce over low heat, and add 1/2 cup of the water from the boiling pasta pot to the sauce and stir to combine (this will help the sauce stick to the pasta later on).
When the pasta is al dente (aka *nearly* cooked), drain it, then add it to the pot of sauce and toss to coat. Continue cooking the pasta in the sauce until your desired tenderness of the pasta is reached. Plate a serving of the pasta in a bowl, put a generous scoop of snap peas on top, and sprinkle with the lemon zest, finely chopped parsley, and chopped toasted almonds. Repeat with the remaining servings and enjoy immediately!