This decadent-tasting dish owes its richness to a creamy sauce thickened with cashews. Cashews have all the health benefits of other types of tree nuts, but unlike other nuts, they contain 10 percent starch. They can thus be used as a thickening agent for dishes such as soups, stews, curries, and desserts. Hothead that I am, I added a splash of chili crisp to my serving as a counterpoint to the creaminess of this dish.

Ingredients:

8 ounces high-quality penne pasta, such as Dreamfield’s

5 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped

1 cup plain unsweetened nondairy milk

¼ cup whole raw cashews

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup kalamata olives, chopped, for garnish

1 large tomato, diced, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Bring a vast cauldron of water to a boil and cook the penne according to package directions, adding the spinach during the last two minutes of cooking. Drain well.
  2. While the penne is cooking, use a high-speed blender or smoothie maker to blend the cashews with the milk, wine, vinegar, and salt until completely smooth, at least two minutes.
  3. In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil and add the garlic. Cook and stir until it begins to brown, about two to three minutes.
  4. Pour the cashew/milk mixture into the saucepan. Whisk and cook on low heat until thickened, but don’t let it stick or burn.
  5. Place the penne and spinach in a serving bowl and stir in the sauce. Taste for salt.
  6. Garnish with the olives and tomatoes.

Wendy Andresen lives in Camden with her husband, Ray; her Sheltie, Sunshine; and her bunny, Rustle. She welcomes responses to her column at wendyandrayzer@yahoo.com.