This recipe is my current wintery fave. It’s got it all: pasta, creamy sauce, fried sage AND lotsa coconut bacon.
The coconut bacon part is kind of the most exciting bit for me. I learnt about it a while ago via pinterest, of course. I didn’t get round to making any until this summer though and oh god it is beautiful. I’ve tweaked the recipe to my liking, using miso for an extra layer of umami plus I sometimes use smoked paprika if there’s no liquid smoke around. It’s delish. The only problem I had when I made it was: where/when do I use it?? It’s mega addictive and perfect as an on-the-go power snack but when it came to real-bacon applications I was kind of lost. I think the problem was that I only ever (rarely) use bacon cut up and fried like pancetta for bases of sauces/soups/stews. Once I’d started thinking about it as a crumbly garnish though, that’s when it got exciting.
Sprinkled on pancakes with maple syrup = fab. It’s also an EXCELLENT alternative to croutons on tomato soup (the flakes stay crunchy even when they’ve been sitting in the soup for a while). Then it hit me – vegan carbonara ft. coconut bacon.
The creamy sauce is adapted from Bon Appetit’s recipe but I added nutritional yeast (I refuse to say nutritional yeast has a cheesy flavour because it just doesn’t, to me) for a savoury touch. I also whacked in a blob of tahini because its earthy, creaminess was just what this sauce needed to counteract the sweetness of the squash. Crispy sage is just a bonus here so don’t worry if you don’t have it. OH and in a moment of weird genius, I microplaned a raw almond over the pasta to make ‘parmesan’ shavings. It’s purely a decorative thing but hey, we eat with our eyes first and that’s a tasty sight to see.
- the neck of a medium butternut squash
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- 3 to 5 sage leaves, chiffonaded
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- ½ a vegetable stock cube (see notes)
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp tahini (optional)
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) hot water
- 170g dry spaghetti
- 125ml (1/2 cup) pasta water (reserved from cooking)
- To serve:
- coconut bacon (see recipe below)
- raw almonds, for shaving
- Peel the neck of the squash and cut it into 1 inch cubes. Toss in ½ tbsp of oil and place onto a baking tray. Roast in an oven preheated to 180 C (350 F) for 30-40 minutes until tender.
- Meanwhile heat the remaining olive oil in a small frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the sage leaves and fry until crispy - remove with a slotted spatula or spoon to a paper towel to drain.
- Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packet - don't forget to reserve the 125ml (1/2 cup) of the cooking water for the sauce!!! Drain the pasta and return it to the pot (off the heat).
- Add the onions to the frying pan you were using earlier. If there isn't much oil left, add a splash more and cook the onion over a medium-low heat until translucent.
- Add the crushed garlic and saute for about a minute, just to remove the rawness, then transfer the onion and garlic to a blender.
- Add the stock cube, nutritional yeast, tahini and hot water and blend until smooth. Add the roasted squash and blend until smooth. Pour in the cooking water a little at a time, blending between additions, until a smooth, creamy sauce is achieved.
- Pour the sauce over the pasta in the pot stirring to coat (stir over a low heat if the sauce/pasta need warming up). Divide the pasta between 2 bowls and top with the crispy sage, coconut bacon and microplane over some almonds for a parmesan effect.
- I find vegetable stock cubes quite salty so I haven't added any extra salt to the recipe here. However, as brands vary (and as you may use homemade veg stock instead), season to taste with salt if needed.
- the tahini isn't completely necessary as the sauce is creamy on its own but I find it makes it even richer + balances the sweet flavour of the sauce.
- If you're okay with consuming dairy, cream cheese can also replace the tahini
- 1 tbsp brown miso paste
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp liquid smoke or 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
- a few good grinds of black pepper
- 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 2 cups plain (un-toasted, unsweetened) coconut flakes
- Preheat your oven to 160 C (325 F). Line a baking tray with a non-stick mat or a piece of baking paper.
- Place the miso paste into a small bowl with the maple syrup. Cream the two together using a spoon. Add the liquid smoke and stir that in until smooth. Mix in the soy sauce, black pepper and coconut oil.
- Place the coconut flakes into a large bowl and pour the miso mixture on top. Toss it all together with your hands until the flakes are fully coated.
- Spread the flakes out onto the baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring and tossing the mixture every 5-10 minutes to prevent burning. The flakes should look dark and feel dry but they won't seem crisp until they've had a chance to cool.
- Once fully cooled, store in an airtight container in the freezer.