Short Cut Cooking: Whole Wheat Pasta Bowl with Vegan Tomato & Lentil Cream Sauce

Before becoming a chef, I was always curious what chefs make for themselves at home. Well, now that I’m a chef I’ve come to realize that when I’m not cooking (and and shopping and cleaning) for clients, making a gourmet meal for myself (and then cleaning up after) is simply not something I want to do on most days. And that’s why I’ve come up with some go-to meals that are quick, healthy, plant-forward & satisfying.

This is one of on those dishes. Using some totally acceptable shortcuts, this creamy, dreamy pasta dish comes together in 25 minutes and is packed with protein, fiber and nutrients. What do I mean by “totally acceptable shortcuts”? These are shortcuts that make getting a meal on the table quick and effortless, but that also don’t sacrifice on healthfulness and nourishment. This recipe calls for three of these “totally acceptable shortcuts”…

1) jarred marinara sauce (or homemade, if i have some premade in the freezer/fridge). I always have a few jars of sauce in the pantry. My brand of choice is Raos, but any jarred red sauce with only “natural and normal” ingredients in the ingredient list works. In other words, the only ingredients in the list should be ones that you would add to your own homemade sauce. Label reading is everything when it comes to grocery store shortcuts!

2) frozen cashew cream. Last week I posted my recipe for savory cashew cream. It’s so simple to make, and it’s incredibly versatile. Pretty much any time I want to make a dairy-free meal, I turn to this cashew cream recipe. It’s rich, flavorful and decadent, but also nourishing and health-supportive. Double or triple the batch, portion it out, and pop it in the freezer.

3) pre-washed baby greens. Whether it’s baby spinach, arugula, romaine or kale, I always have organic, pre-washed greens in the fridge. I throw them on everything – sandwiches, stews, pizza, tacos, quesadillas, whatever! For this recipe, I round out the rich pasta with a large handful of fresh baby spinach. I then drizzle the spinach with a splash of balsamic vinegar and call it a day. The hot pasta will soften the greens a bit, and the balsamic seeps into the whole dish adding another layer of flavor. Forget using a plate and breaking your meal into sections – that’s sooooo last decade. Pile your meal into a bowl and everything melds together into pure magic.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Vegan Tomato & Lentil Cream Sauce
Servings: 2 hearty portions Start to Finish: 25 minutes


1/2 cup lentils
Sea salt, fine grain
8 cups water
2 cups 100% whole wheat pasta
1 cup marinara or all-purpose red sauce
1/3 cup savory cashew cream
1/3+ cup reserved pasta/lentil water
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Make It a Meal…

2 large handfuls baby spinach
balsamic vinegar

To Make

Add 1/2 cup lentils, 8 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt to a pot. Bring to boil partially covered. When water begins to boil, add pasta. Boil until pasta is fully cooked. I like to cook whole wheat pasta a couple minutes extra so that it has a softer texture similar to white pasta.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta/lentil water before draining. Drain pasta/lentils and return to pot. Stir in marinara and cashew cream. Add pasta/lentil water to achieve desired consistency. Start with a few tablespoons and add more as needed. Salt to taste.

Serve pasta alongside baby spinach. Drizzle spinach with 1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. Season with a small pinch of salt and black pepper.

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