Creamy Spring Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms and Peas

May 15, 2014

Every other Thursday, Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw shares satisfying, flavorful recipes that also happen to be vegan.

Today: A pasta so creamy, your guests will never guess it's dairy-free. 

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Replicating the taste and texture of all things “creamy” is one of the obvious challenges of vegan cooking. There are a bunch of ways to go about this: one is to use cashew cream. Another is to use puréed white beans. Another is to use tahini or nut butter.

One of the simplest ways to create creamy sauces and dressings is to use silken tofu, which blends up easily and has an incredibly authentic texture. Like regular, extra-firm tofu, silken tofu has a neutral taste, so it’s important to season any sauce you make with it thoroughly -- but this also makes it very versatile.

More: For dessert, try this vegan chocolate cake.

In this recipe, silken tofu meets nutritional yeast, olive oil, lemon, and spices to create a perfect vegan rendition of cream sauce. And it all gets poured over a beautiful, vibrant bowl of springtime pasta, brimming with tender green peas and meaty, flavorful shiitake mushrooms. It’s an ideal dish for an elegant weeknight supper or a casual meal with friends, who will likely never guess that the recipe is dairy-free. 

Creamy Spring Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms and Peas

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large shallots, divided and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces silken tofu
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon lemon juice (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
A pinch nutmeg
4 to 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced into strips
1 1/2 cups green peas
Black pepper to taste
8 ounces orecchiette, farfalle, or linguine
2 tablespoons minced chives

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Mark Weinberg

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The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Teresa Gilman
    Teresa Gilman
  • Pat Ballard
    Pat Ballard
  • Ellie
  • Nicole
  • Julie Martenson
    Julie Martenson
Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


Teresa G. August 19, 2014
This recipe is AWESOME! The shitake mushrooms were substituted with regular sauteed button mushrooms. I served it to my kids last night and they loved it. This one is definitely going into our family's recipe collection.
Pat B. May 26, 2014
Thanks for all of the great input, everyone. I'm seeing my doctors next week, and I'll be pushing them for more info.
Ellie May 20, 2014
Tofu might be full of GMOs but it's much lower fat than nut butters. Just a reminder!
Nicole May 19, 2014
Sorry but Im new to veganism- I see opposing viewpoints on nut butters vs. tofu. In laymans terms, what are the main issues with both products? Im otherwise healthy, so I don't need to worry about cancer issues like one commenter posted...thoughts?
Gena H. May 25, 2014

The majority of research that we have suggests that soy is healthful across the board: good for cardiovascular health, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol lowering, cancer preventive. And nut butters are also healthy! You can enjoy both foods, in moderation and balance, as with all ingredients in a healthy diet.

Julie M. May 18, 2014
Given that tofu in this country is becoming such a problem as far as GMOs and allergies it would be nice to see some recipes that did not include soy. It is not a protein that anyone can metabolize, at least not in the unfermented variety primarily sold in the states.
Gena H. May 25, 2014

The vast, overwhelming majority of the GMO soy grown in this country is either fed to farm animals or is used in processed foodstuffs. It's actually quite rare for tofu and tempeh *not* to be non-GMO and organic these days, and it's incredibly easy to find brands that are.

Justin M. May 18, 2014
Yum. Very similar to my Orecchiette pasta recipe:
What W. May 16, 2014
This looks delicious. Thank you for the recipe! And no need to avoid soy for health purposes, especially not for cancer risk reduction.
Gena H. May 25, 2014
Thanks Laura -- Agreed re: soy.
Blue P. May 15, 2014
Looks tasty, but we try to avoid tofu when preparing meals at home as it does have health concerns and is already rather difficult to avoid when dining out. Cashew cream though, is a vegan's dream!
Pat B. May 15, 2014
Tofu is not good for women who have had estrogen receptive breast cancer. I'll have to try cashews.
Gena H. May 25, 2014

The research on soy and breast cancer actually suggests that soy either has no impact on recurrence of cancer (even in cases where the cancer was estrogen receptive) or that it has a slightly positive, preventive effect. The tiny number of suggestive studies that called this into question (and have been seized upon by popular media) were done with a form of soy isolates that are heavily processed and do not appear in tofu or tempeh. Some good studies (but there are many many more):

Shu XO, Zheng Y, Cai H, et al. Soy food intake and breast cancer survival. JAMA. 2009;302:2437-2443

Butler LM, Wu AH, Wang R, Koh WP, Yuan JM, Yu MC. A vegetable-fruit-soy dietary pattern protects against breast cancer among postmenopausal Singapore Chinese women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Apr;91(4):1013-9.

Wu AH, Koh WP, Wang R, Lee HP, Yu MC (2008) Soy intake and breast cancer risk in Singapore Chinese health study. Br J Cancer. 99(1):196–200.

Korde LA, Wu AH, Fears T, et al. Childhood soy intake and breast cancer risk in Asian American women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009;18:OF1-10.

Shu XO, Jin F, Dai Q, et al. Soyfood intake during adolescence and subsequent risk of breast cancer among Chinese women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2001;10:483-8.

Caan BJ, Natarajan L, Parker BA, Gold EB, Thomson CA, Newman VA, Rock CL, Pu M, Al-Delaimy WK, Pierce JP. Soy Food Consumption and Breast Cancer Prognosis. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. Prev. 2011 May;20(5):854-8. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-1041. Epub 2011 Feb 25.