There are many dishes that bring me back to my childhood in the South, but two of them stick out the most to me as childhood comfort foods: chicken and dumplings and chicken spaghetti. I haven’t figured out how to make my Mamaw’s chicken and dumplings into a plant based dish just yet (give me time!), but I nailed my plant based version of chicken spaghetti. I’m calling it Cashew Cheesy Spaghetti and it’s really, really delicious. 

I’ve had many different versions of chicken spaghetti over the years, but my favorite is my mother in law’s version. She adds green peas and I always thought that little hit of sweetness from them made this dish taste even more delicious.

Typically this dish is made with either velveeta cheese or grated cheese. I’m pretty sure I’ve had it both ways over the years. I subbed cashew cream for all the cheese to make it plant based and much, much lighter and more suitable for people like me who have sensitive digestive systems. All the cheese in the original versions of chicken spaghetti are now a no-go for my gut!

If you’re new to serving dairy free, plant based dishes like this to your family, I highly recommend not even mentioning what it is that you’re doing. Don’t tell them you’re serving a cleaned up version of chicken spaghetti, don’t tell them it’s dairy free, etc. I’ve learned that not making a big deal about these things or announcing them to the family is the best way to ensure it goes over a success. Tell them about it and they’ll likely never trust anything you serve them again!

Important: be sure to allow time to soak the cashews for at least one hour. They can also be soaked overnight, just drain them the next morning and place them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them. 

 

CASHEW CHEESY SPAGHETTI (DAIRY FREE!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 medium red, orange, or green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 bunch green onions, bulbs removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 lb package 100% whole wheat fettuccine or spaghetti noodles (or gluten free noodles, if desired)
  • 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes with green chilies (I use the Muir Glen Organic brand)
  • 1 1/3 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (found in most natural grocery stores)
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt plus more to taste
  • 2/3 cup of water plus more to soak the cashews

Directions:

Place the cashews in a bowl and fill it up with enough water to completely cover the cashews. Allow to soak for at least an hour but up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Use a large pot or dutch oven to cook the pasta according to package directions. Do not cook longer than the package recommends or the pasta will become mushy and gooey. When the pasta is finished cooking, drain the water from the pasta and set pasta aside.

In the same pot or dutch oven, sauté the pepper and green onions over medium heat with a pinch of sea salt. Use just a small amount of water, about a tablespoon, in the pot with the veggies to help keep them from sticking. Allow them to sauté until the peppers soften. 

Add the tomatoes, green peas, and pasta to the pot with the veggies, stir everything well, and turn the heat off. 

Drain the soaking water from the cashews and place the cashews in a high speed blender. Add 2/3 cup fresh water to the blender along with the nutritional yeast flakes, chipotle powder, garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp sea salt. Blend everything well for about 2 minutes or until the mixture has the consistency of nacho cheese. 

Pour the cashew cheese over the spaghetti mixture and mix everything well so all the ingredients are coated with the cashew cheese. Adjust the seasonings, if needed. Spread the mixture into a large baking (9×13 or similar size) and place in the oven. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, watching it closely so as to not burn the pasta.

This can be served with more nutritional yeast flakes sprinkled on top, if desired, and a big green salad. Makes 6-8 servings.

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