I love simple dishes like Cacio e Pepe – it’s such a beautifully uncomplicated dish full of umami and peppery flavor, it’s so satisfying! To me, its grown up, sophisticated mac + cheese – comforting with familiar flavors.
But for us lactose-intolerant folk, we’re left to come up with other inventive ways to get a similar flavor profile and texture without the pain that comes with eating dairy.
Luckily there are so many amazing vegan recipes out there and it’s such a great time to be lactose-intolerant – if there ever was one! (I’m really cultivating a positive mindset this year :D). Before my sensitivity to dairy became worse and more importantly acknowledged, this is the dish that taught me the magic of using starchy pasta water to thicken up a sauce. I will forever thank Cacio for that tip and take it with me in application to pasta everywhere.
In the photo above, I served with a side of roasted brussels sprouts and garlic and topped with an egg.
My son loves a runny egg yolk so I made a sunny side up version for him.
Whether you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, cheese-adverse or not, this dish is worth trying out!
VEGAN CACIO E PEPE
Serving size: 4
For the vegan parmesan (Note: there are many variations to this using cashews or other nuts of choice. I happen to have sunflower seeds on hand)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to your taste)
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
For Cacio e pepe:
- 1/2 pound (8 ounces) spaghetti pasta of your choice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup vegan parmesan
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (plus more to taste if desired)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt (plus more to taste if desired)
- To make the vegan parmesan. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and pulse just until a fine meal forms. Careful not to over-blend. Should resemble fine bread crumbs. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to instructions. Before draining, reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain.
- Assemble the Cacio e Pepe. Pour the pasta back into pot, drizzle with olive oil. Top with 1/2 cup vegan parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss to evenly coat pasta.
- Add reserved pasta water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, and toss again, until the pasta is moistened and a bit saucy. It won’t be as cheese-saucy as true Cacio e Pepe – FYI.
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Sprinkle some remaining vegan parmesan over the top and some cracked pepper.