Most of the time when I’m developing a recipe, I have a goal in mind to create X or Y and I figure it out as I go along. But some of my favorite dishes have happened almost on accident as I start throwing together whatever I can find in the kitchen that sounds like it might go well together. This pasta sauce is definitely in that latter category. I stumbled on a variation of this last month and it has since become one of my favorite meals.

I’ve done a lot of pasta sauces, even cream sauces, on this blog and this one is kind of the culmination of everything I’ve learned so far, with lots of new and interesting flavors that are really unlike anything I’ve ever made. It starts with a base of capers and lemon for tons of brightness, then we add a bunch of fresh cherry tomatoes into the mix and cook them down before adding blended cashew cream and basil, and finally serving tossed with your favorite pasta.

There really is nothing better. And as a bonus, it is also one of my simplest recipes. The ingredient list is just 8 items long, it’s easy to make, and comes together very quickly.

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons capers + brine
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup raw cashew pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 16 oz pasta (your favorite kind)

Prep: Soak the cashews for at least an hour in fresh water before blending into cream below.

Step One

In a large skillet, begin warming the capers with a tablespoon or so of their brine along with 3 cloves of minced garlic and a lemon that has been cut into rounds with the seeds removed. (Just throw the whole lemon in there, peel and all. It will make the dish more flavorful in the end). Add a splash of water too and allow to cook over medium heat.

Step Two

Meanwhile, slice each cherry tomato in half lengthwise. This will take a minute but it’s worth the effort. When done, add to the skillet with a generous amount of salt & pepper and basically just allow this to simmer (with a lid, if possible) for at least 20 minutes, until the acidity in the tomatoes has been cooked off and everything is melding beautifully.

If nothing else, your kitchen will start to smell pretty phenomenal at this point…

Step Three

While everything above is cooking, drain and then blend the cashews with a few pinches of salt and just enough fresh water to make a cream – it’s okay if it’s a little runny because the cream will thicken when cooking. Set this aside until the tomatoes are ready. Also at this point: begin boiling a pot of water of the pasta.

Step Four

After about 20 minutes of simmering, remove and discard the lemon slices, then pour the cashew cream into the skillet along with about 1/4 cup of basil (cut into slivers, or chiffonade, if you’re cool like that). Also add the pasta to the boiling water. Just allow the cashew cream to simmer for just as long as it takes the pasta to cook – you really just want to bring it up to temperature. When the pasta is done, drain, toss with the sauce, and serve with a grind of pepper and a sprig of basil.

Note: Cashews tend to thicken as they cook, so if the sauce becomes a little too thick for your liking after adding the cashew cream, feel free to add some water or even vegetable broth to thin it out if needed.