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Orecchiette with Broccolini and Silken Sauce

My journey into vegan cooking began a few years ago with a copy of Food 52 Vegan: 60 Vegetable-Driven Recipes for any Kitchen by Gena Hamshaw. Gena’s book is a great start for a fresh dive into plant based cooking with some simple ideas and plenty of instruction regarding techniques and ingredients that drive interest and flavor in vegan foods. The recipe below is my take on her Orecchiette with Creamy Leeks and Broccoli Rabe. I amp up the flavor with acid from lemons and heat from dried red chili flakes. I’ve doubled the aromatics too, with lots of garlic and shallot. Nutritional yeast brings the subtleness of umami to the sauce, so don’t omit it. Gena’s book introduced me to the wonders of it and I’m a convert.

I skip the leeks and use red onion instead, cooking them crisp tender rather than rendering them soft. This way they maintain their color and offer a sweet crunch. 

I like this dish better than fettuccini Alfredo. Honest, it’s tasty, interesting and satisfying without all of the saturated fat and lactose. It’s also high in protein and loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals, including B12.

This is easy to make, but requires a food processor or a blender. Serves 4.


For the Sauce

Pasta & Broccolini


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid half-way through cooking. Drain the pasta once cooked.
  2. While the pasta cooks, make the sauce by first heating olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute longer. Transfer to a food processor. You can use a blender instead if you like.
  3. Add the tofu, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Pulse until combined, adding enough water through the feed tube to get the texture you want. You may not need to use as much as a ¼ cup. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more lemon juice if needed.
  4. Heat more olive oil in the empty skillet over medium heat and add the diced red onion. Sauté until crisp-tender, but not turning brown. We want to maintain its pretty color. Add the broccolini and cook for 2-3 minutes, until it is tender. Add garlic. Cook for a minute to release its fragrance and flavor. Turn off the heat. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  5. Put the drained hot pasta into a large bowl and add half the sauce. Stir to combine. Now add the vegetables, stir, add more sauce. Finish with lemon zest, more minced garlic, chili flakes, and fresh herbs. 
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