Easy weeknight pasta bake cake {gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free}

I try to keep pasta stocked in the pantry at all times. I rarely experience pasta cravings but this dish is simple and easy to make, especially when you’ve come home from work and haven’t given dinner a thought.

Pasta bake cake was my attempt at turning a simple bowl of pasta marinara into something a little more exciting. Needing a cheesy element, but trying not to overdo my soy intake, I pulled out my trusted recipe for cashew cheese – one of my earliest recipes – to complete the dish. Cashew cheese tastes like a hybrid of runny cheese and what I imagine queso dip to taste like (full disclosure, I’ve never had queso dip!).

You can add vegetables like spinach or kale to the pasta before you bake it, and you can make your own marinara sauce. In the interest of showing you just how easy living gluten-free and vegan can be, I’ve decided to keep this one as simple as possible. That means I’ve used store-bought sauce and left out the additions in the bake. Having said that, I do serve a slice of this with some fresh rocket or finely shredded kale (with a light drizzle of lemon juice) on the side.

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Easy weeknight pasta bake cake {gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free}
Serves 6

500g gluten-free vegan penne pasta, cooked 2-3 mins less than packet directions
2 x 500g jars of vegan pasta sauce
Cashew cheese (recipe below)
Rocket or finely shredded kale, to serve

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Cook pasta 2-3 minutes less than the packet directions. Strain and set aside.

Grease an 8-inch/20cm cake tin. Put a tray under in case the tomato sauce seeps through the tin during cooking.

Pour about 100g pasta sauce from one jar into the tin to cover the bottom. Fill cake tin with about half of the cooked pasta.

Add remaining 400g pasta sauce from the opened jar and pour about a quarter of your cashew cheese over the top. Add remaining pasta and pour contents of the second jar of sauce on top. Add remaining cashew cheese ensuring it is evenly spread over the top.

Place tin on tray in the oven and cook for around 20 minutes. Then, remove from oven and let stand to set for 10-15 minutes. Cut into slices and serve with rocket or kale.

Vegan cashew cheese

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
1/2 cup filtered water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp garlic granules
Pinch of salt

Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender and blend until smooth.

Pour into a small bowl and set aside.

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The best gluten-free vegan pesto pasta

I’m going to call it, this is the best vegan pesto around. It is also extremely simple and can be pulled together in the shortest amount of time. You know how that saying goes, hey presto, it’s pesto – well, it’s true.

When I first changed my diet, one of my first thoughts were that I hadn’t had enough time with real pesto in my life. That’s right, it was up there with the fact that I would never eat meat again. But I wasn’t going to let it stop me. I was determined to still enjoy it and set out to conquer a recipe for vegan pesto.

Remember when you bought nutritional yeast to make my scrambled tofu? Well, it’s time to pull it out of the pantry again (although I really hope you have used it since) because it’s the hero of vegan pesto. Seriously, you can’t have good pesto without it.

You’ll find it hard to turn back to regular pesto after tasting this one.

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Gluten-free vegan pesto pasta
Serves 4-6

1 cup fresh basil
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup baby spinach
1 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup cashews
1 tbsp garlic granules
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
500g gluten-free vegan pasta
12 cherry tomatoes, halved

Cook pasta as per packet directions. Gluten-free pasta usually cooks in around eight minutes (for al dente).

Add basil, nutritional yeast, spinach, pine nuts, cashews, garlic granules, olive oil and salt to a food processor and blend until combined. Adjust seasonings to taste then mix the pesto through the cooked pasta, spoonfuls at a time.

Once you have reached your desired pesto to pasta ratio, add the cherry tomatoes then serve.

Any leftover pesto can be stored in the fridge, but let it sit at room temperature before eating as the oil may solidify from being refrigerated.