Updated: Jul 13
It's Friday, mes babies, and that means it's vegan recipe time! Today I'm sharing a really delicious vegan chicken pasta dish I made this week. With all the gorgeous days we've been experiencing here in London, I thought to myself, what's a better way to celebrate hot and sunny weather than a heavy creamy pasta dish?
Okay, I'm just being silly - it's not actually heavy! It's quite simple for how flavourful it is, and tastes a bit rich but still light enough. (Enough for what? Summer I guess.) Read on for my favourite way to make a creamy sauce without using cream, so that it keeps the dish feeling more light and fresh than its dairy alternative.
I had a beautiful bunch of chard to use, and immediately thought of pairing it with chicken (vegan, always, of course!) (not just because all the 'ch' sounds plus chicken made me sing the Barenaked Ladies "One Week" for the entire week) and a creamy white sauce. Now, although this is reminiscent of an Alfredo sauce, I am not calling it that because Alfredo sauce as we generally think of it is an American scam, and my Italian grandmother would shake her head at the idea.
Instead of heavy cream, or something gross and cruel like that, my favourite way to make a cream sauce is to mix white beans and a vegan milk. Seriously, my friends will tell you, I put beans in EVERYTHING. I was one of those people in the aughts making those disgusting black bean brownies (mine were actually decent, but it might be a crime to sully the glorious name of brownie by connecting the two discrete entities). When everyone was freaking out over that vegan football (American version) player who put two cans of chickpeas in his morning smoothies, I was like, "that's not that weird." There's this episode of the Netflix show 'Explained' about modern nutrition and this dietary expert was complaining about how 'no one eats beans anymore!' Excuse me, I eat enough beans for my whole generation. Anyway all this to say, white beans - cannellini, navy, butter, any will work a treat - are the key here. And extra fiber and protein! Always a win.
Now, the part that might make you go 'hmm' - the coconut milk. Full disclosure, I chose it partly because I had an open can to use up. But also, the creaminess helps more than a regular boxed non-dairy milk. They are much thinner, and so the...okay, heaviness of coconut milk (the real canned kind (and none of this 'light' coconut milk crap, that just means they've watered it down and you are wasting your money)) adds some lovely texture and depth to this sauce. And, most importantly, I could not taste the coconuttiness AT ALL. But of course, you can use any nondairy milk of choice; it just might be a little thinner.
To confirm that this is decidedly not a take on the heavy American Alfredo, I used fusilli instead of the traditional fettucine. You can use any pasta shape you wish. I recommend serving with roasted broccoli (hot tip at the end), a staple in my house, and letting the sauce creep onto its side of the plate.
CREAMY CHICKEN & CHARD PASTA
8 oz. pasta of choice (half a bag of Tesco standard, or like 4 regular servings, or 2 if you are like me)
2-3 servings vegan chicken pieces
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup pasta water after cooking pasta
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 Tablespoon broth powder (I use Marigold Vegan broth powder like it's my job)
Salt to taste
Lots of black pepper
1 bunch chard, chopped
1 onion, diced
5-infinity cloves of garlic (I mean at least do 5, I err towards 10), minced
Optional: nooch (nutritional yeast)
Cook your pasta according to directions
While it's boiling, cook your chicken. For my beloved Tesco meat-free chicken-style pieces, I heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large pan, fry the pieces for at least 5 minutes on one side on medium high heat, and then flip meticulously one-by-one so they all cook evenly on both sides. Look at how amazing (above)
Drain your pasta, SAVING YOUR MAGIC PASTA WATER, and set aside
Back in the now-empty pasta pot, cook your onion and garlic in 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high for about 5 minutes, deglazing with a drop of water as needed
Add the chard and cook for 10 ish minutes so it's all super soft
While the veggies are cooking, blend your milk, beans, 1/2 C pasta water, and broth powder in a blender until smooth. Okay, I left about a dozen beans out and threw them in the final pot whole, just because I felt like it. It's nice to eat a bean
Add the blended mixture to the veg pot and stir stir stir and let cook cook cook. As it gets bubbly it will thicken! Super fun! If it gets too thick or seems too thick for you, add more pasta water as needed. It's totally flexible and to your own taste
After about 5 minutes, add the pasta into the pot and stir stir stir! And then add in your chicken!
Add lots of black pepper and taste for salt
Roasted broccoli treats:
I roast a lot of broccoli. Get a spray bottle of olive oil and spray it generously all over your tray of florets, and then sprinkle some salt over it. Roast for 15 minutes at 200C!