Spicy Tomato and Cashew Whole Wheat Pasta

We took the plunge this year and bought season passes to White Pass Ski Area. Growing up in Spokane, Washington, many of my childhood memories surround being tossed into our lumbering old suburban for early morning treks to Schweitzer Mountain or Lookout Pass, both a solid two plus hour drive from where I grew up.

With White Pass just an hour away, I remind my children every time they complain in the car just how good they have it. And other than some minor car-whining, we are having a blast. All three kids love to ski and it is probably one of the highlights of my parenting journey so far to spend the day skiing as a family. Our five-year-old is probably the most enthusiastic and it has been such a joy to watch her take off.

And the best thing about coming home after a long day of skiing? An easy, fast and super-hearty meal everyone will gobble right up. Just like everyone else in January, I’m working hard to make good healthy meal choices for myself and my family this year. I’m looking for ways to add more vegetables to my children’s plates and reminding myself to reach for fresh, whole foods whenever possible.

This big pot of whole wheat pasta smothered in a creamy spicy tomato sauce checks all the boxes. The creaminess comes from blending cashews into the sauce. You don’t taste the nuts, but the resulting sauce is velvety smooth and deliciously decadent. Roasted cauliflower mixes in with the pasta and is almost undetectable by picky children while they unknowingly get a good dose of vitamin c and k. Whole wheat pasta is full of fiber and a better choice than regular pasta, but a gluten free or lentil pasta would work just fine in the recipe too. Most importantly, this recipe is super flexible and easy to adapt to your specific tastes. If you don’t like spice, skip the red pepper flakes. Want a completely vegetarian dish? Skip the bacon. Have a few other vegetables you need to clean out of the crisper? Roast them with the cauliflower.

Spicy Tomato Cashew Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

• 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

• 3 cloves garlic, finely diced

• 3 pieces center-cut bacon, diced

• 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

• 1 25-ounce jar marinara sauce (look for one with low sugar)

• 1 cup roasted cashews

• ½ cup water

• 1 head cauliflower, chopped into small florets

• 1 box whole wheat pasta

• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

• 1 teaspoon dried basil

• Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Start by setting a big pot of heavily salted water to boil. When the water boils, cook the pasta to package instructions (usually about 8 minutes). When the pasta is finished cooking, drain the noodles and set aside.

In a blender, combine the cashews, water and jar of tomato sauce. Blend until completely smooth. Depending on the strength of your blender, this may take a couple minutes. Just keep going until the sauce is nice and smooth.

Layer the cauliflower evenly on a sheet pan. Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil, making sure the vegetables are evenly coated and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables in a 425-degree oven for about 20 minutes until the cauliflower is golden brown. Don’t forget to turn the vegetables at least once halfway through the cooking time, so they brown evenly on all sides.

In a sauté pan, cook the onion, garlic and bacon in the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes or until the bacon is cooked through and the onion is translucent. Salt and pepper the mixture. Turn the heat to low and stir in the tomato cashew sauce. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and dried basil.

Combine the pasta, roasted cauliflower and sauce in a big bowl (or the pot you cooked the pasta in). Mix well, taste and add salt and pepper or more red pepper flakes if needed. Serve immediately. Leftovers will store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

*A sprinkle of crumbled goat cheese or parmesan cheese over the pasta is a lovely addition if you happen to have some.

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