- Prep time 35 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Serves 2 to 4
The basil-iest pasta sauce I know. No offense to pesto, which is as much about the pine nuts and Parmesan and olive oil as the herbs. This basil cream sauce needs only two ingredients. One, yes, is basil. The other is not heavy cream. Or light cream or half-and-half or milk. Instead, use raw cashews and water. Think of this DIY cashew cream less as the driver, more as the vehicle, the means of devouring as much summery basil (and, yeah, pasta) as possible. You don’t need a long soak—as short as 30 minutes does the trick. You don’t need a high-speed blender. You don’t need cheesecloth or even a strainer. The result is creamy, even buttery, born to thickly coat pasta. Speaking of which, any shape works: Something long like linguini or ramen. Something short like penne or bow-ties. Everyone gets along with basil cashew cream sauce. I mean, just look at it. While it’s written to be eaten right away, you can also be a rebel, why not? Make the sauce up to 2 days in advance and pop it in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, cook the pasta, shock it under cold running water, and then drain it until dry. Toss with the cold sauce and tote to the nearest park for a picnic. —Emma Laperruque
(4 ounces) raw cashews
packed basil leaves (2 ounces leaves, from 3¼ ounces basil), plus more for garnish if you’d like
pasta, any shape
- Add the cashews to a blender and cover with cold water. Soak for 30 minutes to 24 hours, depending on your schedule. (If you’re soaking for longer than 2 hours, transfer the blender to the fridge.)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then season generously with salt. Add the basil leaves and blanch for 15 seconds. Use a large spider or fine-mesh sieve to transfer to a kitchen towel and squeeze dry.
- Bring the water back to a boil, then add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions until as tender as you like.
- Meanwhile, drain the cashews, then return them to the blender along with ½ cup of cold water and ½ teaspoon of salt. Blend until silky smooth, with no grainy bits, scraping down as needed. Add the basil and another ¼ cup of cold water. Keep blending until as smooth as possible, scraping down as needed. The finished sauce should be a bright, solid pea green. Season to taste with salt—the basil and cashews are each sweet in their own way, so generous seasoning is a must. Pour the sauce into a serving bowl.
- When the pasta is done, use a spider or tongs (depending on the pasta shape) to transfer it to the bowl with the sauce. Toss to combine. Season with salt to taste and add a splash of water (either pasta water or tap water) if needed to loosen up. Sprinkle tiny basil leaves on top if you’re using them.