When the weather gets cooler, I don’t know about you, but I start craving COMFORT FOOD!
Hands down, there’s no comfort food quite like pasta! (Yay! Carbs!)
One question I commonly get asked is whether or not pasta is plant-based. Yes there are some types that contain egg, particularly fresh pasta, but most shelf-stable pasta is vegan!
Incidentally I often get asked if bread is vegan too. Some breads aren’t vegan, but many are. Read the ingredients and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.
So if you’re ready to get your comfort food on, here are my favorite easy vegan pasta dishes to get started.
1. Classic (Boxed) Vegan Mac & Cheese
It doesn’t get any easier than boxed mac and cheese. When it comes to the best brand for the meal, we like three brands (although, I’m sure there are others to try and check out). Daiya Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac is my favorite for the classic “shells & cheese” flavor. I’m not sure what deal they made with the devil, but that stuff is amazing.
The other two brands I recommend are Upton Natural’s Ch’eesy Mac and Earth Balance Vegan Cheddar Flavor Mac & Cheese. Earth Balance is the super “blue box” type of mac with the powder you mix with butter. It’s great if you want the mac from your childhood. Uptons is unique in that the pasta is already cooked. You simply heat and eat in a frying pan (it’s also microwavable). The texture is chewier and more liked baked macaroni.
2. Tomato Macaroni
When I was a kid, my mom used to make tomato soup macaroni and cheese. It called for a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, poured over elbow macaroni and topped with a few handfuls of cheddar. Whenever I had a bad day, THIS was my favorite food.
Well, fortunately Amy’s makes a vegan tomato bisque that works perfectly out of the can. I cook pasta, add the tomato soup and stir in a tablespoon of Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese for creaminess. Then I top the dish with copious amounts of Daiya Cheddar-style Shreds (or grate my own from their farmhouse block) and tons of black pepper. Nom!
Mushroom stroganoff is one of my favorite pasta dishes. It’s savory and delicious. It’s also super-duper comforting on a cold day. Sometimes I toss in a handful of frozen peas or broccoli. The hardest part of stroganoff isn’t the sauce, but finding egg-free “egg noodles.” I find that pappardelle mimics the noodles closest in texture, but honestly–any pasta on hand will be fine.
For the sauce I saute about four cups of chopped mushrooms with thyme, two shallots and a little olive oil. Then I add a teaspoon of Earth Balance margarine and a teaspoon of flour to create a roux. I then deglaze with a splash of cooking sherry (optional) and about a cup of vegetable broth. Then I stir in a cup of Tofutti Sour Supreme and tons of cracked pepper (I like pepper, okay?). This makes at least 6 servings and the leftovers are amazing.
4. Peanut Noodles
Peanut noodles are just about the simplest pasta dish to make and they’re delicious cold and hot. They make great lunches and dinner. With peanut noodles, your options for veggie add-ins are limitless. I use up any veggies in the fridge–peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, peas, carrots…seriously, anything.
Typically, I use spaghetti noodles for my peanut noodles. I like whole wheat noodles, but you don’t have to use them for the recipe. First, I make the noodles. In a separate pan I saute a few cups of finely chopped veggies in a small amount of vegetable broth. I stir in two tablespoons of creamy peanut butter, a healthy dose of sriracha (optional), two tablespoons of Bragg’s liquid aminos (soy sauce would work too) and a teaspoon of brown sugar. I shake in some Chinese Five Spice. If you want the cheater-route, you could stir in PB with Soy Vay Teriyaki Sauce.
5. Spaghetti & Meatballs
Total classic, right? We LOVE spaghetti night! Plus it comes together super fast and it’s easy to make. We always cook a huge batch and take the leftovers for lunches for the next week.
Simply make spaghetti. We use Gardein Meatless Meatballs, which are delicious. Saute the meatballs in a frying pan, cover until heated through (you can also bake them but it takes longer). Add a jar of jarred tomato sauce (Ragu Chunky Garden Combination is vegan). Top with Go Veggie Vegan Soy Free Parmesan Topping (or Nutritional Yeast).
6. Lemon & Dill Orzo
Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta (crazy, I know). If you prefer you could also use Israeli couscous, which is similar in size and texture (couscous is round, orzo is rice-shaped). The tiny pasta cooks quickly, so this is a great dish when you want something fast.
Once the pasta is cooked, I stir in about a teaspoon of lemon juice, a tablespoon of dill, a tablespoon of olive oil and grate in lemon zest. You can use fresh or jarred dill for this recipe. Fresh is always better, but I think jarred dill has a decent flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Italian Pasta Salad
To make pasta salad you can choose ziti, macaroni or another pasta-type you like. Make the pasta and then add Italian dressing. Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing happens to be dairy-free and vegan, but there are also plenty of other vegan Italian options (just read the ingredients for cheese).
When I make pasta salad I usually add canned artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, as well as roasted red peppers. If you like olives they would probably be great in this salad. I ate olives and don’t think they’re great in anything, so it’s your choice. You could also add sauted zucchini, chopped cucumber, cherry tomatoes, celery or fresh peppers. This salad is good cold or hot.
8. Buffalo Pasta
This pasta dish was something I invented because we had a surplus of celery in our CSA. I normally don’t feel like pasta freezes well, but I froze this casserole and it was great! To make, I cooked rigatoni.
I layered the rigatoni in a casserole dish with diced celery (about two cups). I added a package of Beyond Meat Strips (although you could use buffalo cauliflower, or chickpeas as well) coated in Frank’s Red Hot. Then I stirred in a cup of Sour Supreme and a cup of Daiya Mozzerella-style shreds. I topped it off with some more Frank’s. I made two pans of this stuff–one to freeze and one that I baked right away at 375 for 40 minutes.
9. Vegan Mac and Cheese Pizza
One of my all-time favorite pasta creations is the Mac & Cheese pizza at Ian’s in Milwaukee. If you aren’t #blessed to have an Ian’s near you, don’t worry–you can create your own vegan macaroni and cheese pizza!
This is where Upton’s Natural’s Ch’eesy Mac is perfect. Simply use a pre-made pizza crust (hint: Pillsbury’s is accidentally vegan). Top with your favorite vegan cream cheese, a layer of the ch’eesy mac and top with Daiya Mozzarella-style shreds. Bake and die happy.
10. Butter Noodles
So another comfort food go-to is the classic “buttered” noodles. This is great with gnocchi (a potato-pasta) but really, any pasta will do in a pinch. There are two ways to go about it. The fastest is to cook pasta, add a chunk of Earth Balance and shake on some garlic salt.
The “fancy way” is to cook the pasta. Then melt Earth Balance in a saute pan adding in a sprinkle of flour and a splash of cooking sherry. Toss in the pasta, top with fresh parsley, thyme or dill and sprinkle on some Go Veg! Parm. It’s a totally simple dish, but really yummy on a winter day.
So whether you’re carb-loading for a run or just carb-binging because it’s cold and your day was rough, I think we can all agree pasta is freakin’ delicious!
What’s your pasta-secret recipe? Do you love carbs when you want to eat your feelings?
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