Before heading to Rome last summer, we literally googled "best pasta in Rome". Despite the rainy weather, we made sure we visited all the restaurants on our list and boy, it was worth it!
The dish that made the greatest impression on me was Cacio e Pepe, which means cheese and pepper, served at Flavio al Velavevodetto. It was homemade pasta cooked in finely grated Pecorino Romano and coarsely ground black pepper. Although satisfied, we went into a food comma for a good hour after our meal.
When I got home, I had one and only one mission: veganising Cacio e Pepe. I kept the authentic way of cooking the pasta while substituting dairy cheese with two types homemade vegan cheese. I'd like to say that the result is a success - but try it for yourself and let me know what you think!
Pasta of choice - we used spaghetti
1 tbsp vegan butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Coarsely ground black pepper
For the vegan Parmesan:
3/4 cup raw cashews
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
For the vegan cheese sauce:
1 medium sized carrot
2 garlic cloves
200 g tofu
1/2 cup of nutritional yeast
2 tsp corn flour
2 tsp of salt
1/2 cup liquid (vegetable broth or reserved pasta water or just filtered water would do)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk - we used almond milk
Blend all ingredients for the vegan Parmesan together until a fine flour is formed.
Peel and chop the carrot into small pieces then boil until completely soften.
Peel the garlic cloves and roast them in the oven at 200C for 5 minutes to bring out the flavour. You can also lightly sautee them in a pan with a dash of oil.
In a blender, add the cooked carrot pieces, garlic cloves, tofu, nutritional yeast, corn flour, salt, dairy milk and liquid (vegetable broth or pasta water or filtered water). Blend until smooth. Have a taste and add more seasoning if needed. If you have a high speed blender, I'd recommend using a medium-firm tofu as silken tofu will make the sauce too runny. However if you are using a regular food processor, use silken tofu as it is easier to blend into a smooth sauce. If you do use silken tofu, add the liquid a bit at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.
Cook your pasta in salted water a bit less than al dente, this means 1-2 minutes less than the instructions. This is because we are going to cook the pasta in a pan later on. You should cook your pasta after you've prepared the cheese so that pasta does not need to be rinsed and can be added straight into the pan.
In a medium high heat pan, add the vegan butter and let it melt for a minute before adding the olive oil. Turn the heat down to medium low heat before adding a generous amount of black pepper. Then add the pasta into the pan and toss it around for about 30 seconds until evenly coated with pepper.
Next, add your runny cheese sauce. You might not need to use all the cheese sauce made depending how much pasta you have cooked. The leftover cheese sauce can be stored in the fridge and used the next day.
Next, toss the pasta around until evenly coated with the cheese sauce.
At this point, if you like your Cacio e Pepe smooth, serve as it is and sprinkle the vegan Parmesan cheese and some more pepper on top. Or you could add a tablespoon of vegan Parmesan straight into the pan and toss your pasta around before serving.
Hope you enjoy!