Creamy, luscious pasta strewn through with tender kale, sweet caramelized fennel, onion, and garlic… Are you into this? What if we added a bubbly, browned cheesy top and crunchy herbed breadcrumbs? Are we there yet? This dish is the ultimate comfort food that is perfect for the chillier days that come with the changing seasons.
Creamy Baked Penne With Kale and Fennel [Vegan]
- 1 heaping cup raw cashews, soaked 2 hours and drained
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (divided)
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, optional
- Celtic or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
- Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed/cored and thinly sliced (if the bulb has some of the frilly fronds attached, save them to use as a garnish)
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 4 cups kale, washed, stems removed, and roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (can substitute water if you prefer)
- 12 ounces penne
- 2/3 cup shredded vegan cheeses of your preference
- 1 slice of stale country bread, pulsed into rough bread crumbs in a food processor (or 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried herbes de provence
- Fennel fronds or fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
- To make the cashew sauce, combine cashews with lemon zest and juice, half of the garlic, nutritional yeast, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water in a blender or food processor. Blend until creamy, adding a little more water if needed to achieve a saucy/pourable consistency. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and fennel and a pinch of salt. Cook until vegetables are beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add remaining garlic and chili flakes and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir in kale, allowing the greens to wilt. Add wine (or water) and cook, uncovered, until liquid has mostly evaporated. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Keep warm.
- Cook pasta in plenty of salted water, setting a timer for 3 minutes less than the package directions (since the pasta will cook with the sauce for a couple of minutes and then bake in the oven).
- Place kale mixture over medium heat, and use a slotted spoon to scoop the pasta into the skillet. Add cashew cream and toss gently to coat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute, adding 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water if needed to loosen up the sauce. Taste and add salt/black pepper if needed. Stir in half of the shredded cheese. Remove from heat. Sprinkle remaining cheese evenly over the top.
- In a small bowl stir together breadcrumbs, herbs de provence, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle over pasta.
- Bake until browned and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Garnish with fennel fronds or fresh herbs.