Veggie-Loaded Vegan Pasta with Lemon Basil Cashew Cream Sauce

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A fresh, lemony and herbaceous Veggie-Loaded Creamy Vegan Pasta ready in 25 minutes or less! Toss al dente pasta with feel-good veggies like broccoli, bell pepper, and sun-dried tomatoes. Then coat it all in a cashew pesto sauce that’s so creamy, you’d never guess it’s dairy-free! An easy pasta recipe loved by 17,000+ PWWB readers – vegans and non-vegans alike!

Naturally Dairy-Free, Vegan, and filled with veggies!

A close-up overhead shot of creamy vegan pasta in a white skillet, topped with basil leaves and lemon wedges.
Photography by Gayle McLeod

An Easy, Ultra-Creamy Vegan Pasta Recipe Perfect for Weeknights

This pasta was inspired by the most perfect feel-good springtime pasta dish from the Italian restaurant where I used to work.

It’s made with onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and tons of broccoli, but the highlight of the dish is the most insanely velvety pesto cream sauce.

This 25-minute vegan pasta is full of fresh flavor, tons of veggies and so much creaminess – without any dairy!

While most creamy sauces rely on lots of dairy, I tweaked this recipe to use cashews instead!

Blending the nuts with lemon, water and fresh basil makes for the most velvety smooth vegan sauce imaginable. It’s completely plant-based, but still totally creamy and dreamy.

Everything comes together effortlessly in 25 minutes or less –  the longest part is waiting for the pasta to boil! The result is bright, fresh, and veggie-loaded while still being super satisfying and comforting. An instant weeknight favorite!

Looking for more vegan pasta recipes? ⇢ Be sure to try my Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese, Creamy Italian Pasta Salad or Southwest Vegan Pasta Salad!

Ingredient Spotlight

Cashews are Perfect for a Creamy Pasta Sauce!

I LOVE using cashews to make a surprisingly creamy vegan pasta sauce! Why? ⇢ As I learned in making my Cashew Crema, these nuts are what create the smooth and creamy consistency that makes the sauce so magical. Cashews have a mild flavor, so they are easy to work with and adapt well to many recipes since they don’t overpower the flavors of the other ingredients. It’s the best way to keep things dairy-free and still get that to-die-for creamy texture.

How to Make Lemony Basil Creamy Vegan Pasta

Once you begin cooking, this plant-based pasta comes together very quickly! I suggest starting by getting all of the chopping, measuring & other prep odds & ends out of the way so cooking is a smooth process.

Place everything within an arm’s reach from the stovetop and get cooking!

An overhead shot of water being poured into the bowl of a food processor containing cashews, basil, garlic, salt and pepper on a white textured surface.
A high-speed blender easily breaks cashews down, no soaking necessary.
A close-up shot of cashew pasta sauce being poured over cooked noodles, broccoli, arugula, and peppers in a white skillet atop a grey textured surface.
Pour the sauce over cooked pasta, broccoli, and sun-dried tomatoes for a delicious vegan dinner in under 25 minutes.
1

Boil the pasta and broccoli. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. About 2 minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccoli to the pot to quickly blanch it. Before draining the pasta and broccoli, reserve 1 cup of starchy pasta water (it will come in handy for the final step!). Learn more! How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!

2

Blend the lemon basil cashew cream sauce. Add the cashews, garlic, lemon juice, fresh basil, water, and salt to a high-speed blender. Blend on high for a few minutes, until it forms a smooth and creamy sauce. Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the sauce to naturally thicken while you cook the veggies. Why? ⇢ Using a high-speed blender instead of a food processor means there’s no need to soak the cashews! The high speed quickly breaks down the cashews into that creamy, dreamy texture we’re looking for here. 

3

Sauté the veggies. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium heat, then add the sliced onion and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, until the veggies are softened. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and arugula, cooking for only a minute or two until the arugula wilts a bit.

4

Put it all together! Remove the veggie skillet from heat and add the cooked pasta and broccoli. Pour the cashew sauce on top and toss to combine. If you need to loosen up the sauce, add in a small amount of the reserved pasta water, working in small amounts at a time, until you  get the consistency you desire. Taste, season, and serve! Pro Tip! ⇢ Want to add some heat? Sprinkle a pinch of red pepper flakes into the dish!

A close-up overhead shot of creamy vegan pasta in a white skillet, topped with basil leaves and lemon wedges.
Broccoli cooks alongside the pasta, saving a step and making dinnertime so quick and easy!

Make-Ahead Tips

Save up to 10 minutes at dinnertime by chopping your veggies and making the lemon cashew cream sauce in advance. Store each item separately in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. When you’re ready to cook, all you have to do is boil the pasta and cook the vegetables! Toss it all together and enjoy.

An overhead shot of creamy vegan pasta topped with lemon zest and basil leaves in a shallow, bright blue bowl atop a grey textured surface.
Full of flavor and fresh veggies, this is an all-in-one meal that’s feel-good and so satisfying any night of the week.

I can’t wait for you to try this Lemony Basil Creamy Vegan Pasta! It’s creamy, bright and herbaceous, 100% vegan, and it couldn’t be easier to make – a total weeknight win!

If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo and tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!

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A close-up overhead shot of creamy vegan pasta in a white skillet, topped with basil leaves and lemon wedges.

Veggie-Loaded Vegan Pasta with Basil Cashew Cream

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.9 from 51 reviews
  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
  • Category: Pasta Dishes, Vegan Recipes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian-Inspired
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Creamy Vegan Pasta ready in 25 minutes or less! Perfectly al dente vegan pasta tossed with sautéed bell pepper, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, and an easy homemade lemony basil creamy vegan pasta sauce made from cashews. The easiest healthy pasta recipe – totally dairy-free, vegan and filled with veggies!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 ounces fusilli or pasta of choice (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1 small head broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (approx. 8 ounces or 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (see Recipe Notes)
  • 4 ounces baby arugula
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

for the lemon basil cashew cream sauce:

  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted cashews
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ lemon, juiced (approx. 2-3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Boil the pasta and blanch the broccoli: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, generously season the water with salt. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, to al dente according to package directions. About 2 minutes before the pasta is al dente, add the broccoli florets to the pot, blanching them as the pasta finishes cooking. Once the pasta reaches al dente, carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the pot, reserving about 1 cup of starchy pasta water, & set aside. Drain the pasta and broccoli – but do not rinse – and set aside. (Learn more! How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!) An overhead shot of pasta noodles and broccoli boiling in a large white pot upon a grey textured surface.
  2. Prepare the lemon basil cashew cream sauce: Meanwhile, prepare the vegan basil cream sauce. Add all listed ingredients to a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender canister as needed. Set aside, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. An overhead shot of water being poured into the bowl of a food processor containing cashews, basil, garlic, salt and pepper on a white textured surface.
  3. Soften the vegetables: Meanwhile, soften the remaining vegetables. Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, stir in the onion and bell pepper. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ground black pepper if desired. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies soften slightly, 3-4 minutes. Once softened, stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and cook until softened slightly, 1-2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. An overhead shot of chopped onions, bell pepper and sundried tomatoes in a white skillet atop a grey textured surface.
  4. Finish the creamy vegan pasta: Add the drained pasta, blanched broccoli, and arugula to the skillet with the softened vegetables. Pour the lemon basil cashew cream sauce over top. Toss to combine well, adding a little of the reserved starchy pasta water as you go to reach your desired consistency. Taste and season with additional salt or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, as desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy! An overhead shot of creamy vegan pasta in a white skillet atop a grey textured surface. Dishes of salt, pepper and lemon wedges sit alongside the skillet.

Notes

Jess’ Tips and Tricks:

  • Pasta: Feel free to use whatever pasta you like – any short or long pasta works great! I’m particularly fond of the way the creamy cashew sauce gets trapped in the twirly spirals of fusilli – it makes every bite a little more creamy, flavorful, & crave-worthy. Cavatappi, rigatoni, shells, and bucatini are all great choices too.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes: I like using dry sun-dried tomatoes (vs. oil-packed) for this recipe as they help prevent the cashew cream sauce from getting oily. The 3-ounce bags of sliced sun-dried tomatoes at Trader Joe’s work really well for this recipe. If you can only find jarred, oil-packed tomatoes, be sure to drain the oil and pat the tomatoes dry before adding them to the pasta. This recipe uses about ½ of an 8-ounce jar.
  • 15-Minute Meal Prep: Most of the active prep time involved in making this pasta recipe comes from prepping the vegetables and lemon basil cashew cream sauce. Either or both can be done in advance to help reduce the amount of hands-on prep needed at dinnertime. Here’s what you’ll do:
    • Prep the lemon basil cashew cream sauce according to Step 2 of Recipe Directions, above. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (5 minutes active prep)
    • Prep the veggies: Chop 1 small head broccoli into bite-sized florets, dice 1 medium red bell pepper, and finely dice enough sun-dried tomatoes to yield ⅓ cup. Store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active prep)

Storage and Reheating:

Leftover creamy vegan pasta will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for 3-4 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, adding an extra splash of water or cooking stock to loosen up the lemon basil cashew cream sauce as needed, until warmed through.

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 2.29.24
    Josephine said:

    Made this last night for “pasta Wednesday” and it was absolutely delicious. I couldn’t stop going back for thirds and fourths. Added a little crushed red pepper flakes on top, and folded in some vegan Parmesan. Will definitely be making this one again.






    • 2.29.24
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Josephine, so glad to hear that you loved this pasta as much as we do! Pasta Wednesdays sound like an amazing tradition! 🙂

  2. 2.17.24
    Amanda said:

    Woa!!! This is fabulous! I was pleased my Ninja Fit blender (only 16oz) had plenty of room for the pesto. Much easier than I thought and very good.
    Like other users I also used baby spinach and sundried tomatoes in oil. I definitely needed the whole cup of pasta water, don’t forget to reserve it!






    • 2.19.24
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Amanda, so happy to hear this pasta turned out great for you! Thank you for your review! 🙂

  3. 1.7.24
    Sally Franz said:

    Fast, fun, yummy.






    • 1.8.24
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Our favorite kind of recipe! 🙂

  4. 11.16.23
    Christine said:

    Followed recipe. I accidentally used raw cashews instead of roasted. I’ve never cooked vegan before and it was absolutely delicious. I will be saving this recipe.






    • 11.17.23
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      No worries, raw cashews should work great in the sauce as well! We’re so glad you loved the pasta, Christine!

  5. 9.16.23
    Natalie said:

    This was delicious! I love how easily this recipe comes together and how nutritious it is. Definitely plan to make again. Thank you for the recipe!






    • 9.18.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      We’re so glad to hear you loved it, Natalie! Thank you for your review!

  6. 7.4.23
    Bobbi Hemmen said:

    I’m making this today with spinach, do you think that will be ok? Also I plan to pat the oil off of the sun dried tomatoes since I couldn’t find dried. Do you think it will be good cold?

    • 7.5.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Bobbi, you can definitely sub spinach for arugula, you just won’t get the peppery flavors that the arugula adds. It’ll still taste great!! We love this pasta cold and hot! Make sure to let us know what you think!

  7. 7.4.23
    Aisha said:

    This was so delicious! The roasted cashews made the sauce super creamy and also added a really unique, subtle toasty flavour, which complemented really well with all the other components! I added a bit of extra basil as well as parsley to the sauce and also added an extra clove of garlic and more lemon juice as well. I subbed spinach for arugula and used protein pasta, as that’s what I had on hand. Highly recommend this recipe!






    • 7.5.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      We love how versatile this recipe is – so glad you were able to make it work for you with what you had on hand! Thanks so much for your review, Aisha!

  8. 4.4.23
    Rachael Robinson said:

    Making this now, could I replace the arugula with collard greens? Or would that ruin the flavor of the whole dish?

    • 4.5.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Rachael! You could definitely replace the arugula with collard greens, you’d just miss out on that peppery flavor from the arugula. Make sure to let us know how it turns out if you try it!! 🙂

      • 2.4.24
        Rachael Robinson said:

        Sorry for the extremely late reply, but this dish was da bomb dot com! I’ve made it twice, and about to make it again in the near future after remembering how great it tasted. Thanks again, collard greens absolutely worked fine in this dish!

        • 2.5.24
          Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

          So glad to hear it still turned out great for you, Rachael! 🙂

  9. 3.3.23
    geraldine said:

    i just made the sauce in my vitamix… it is smooth, smells wonderful but it is soooo green, nothing like the picture of your pasta… just wondering if you doctored the picture to make it more appealing?

    • 3.4.23
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hey Geraldine! If you watch the included video you can see how green the sauce typically gets (although there could definitely be some variation!) – once it gets mixed up with all of the veggies & pasta the pasta itself definitely doesn’t look as green as a whole. Hope that helps & glad you enjoyed!

  10. 2.20.23
    Brenda said:

    I cannot find fresh basil for the recipe, can I use something else

    • 2.20.23
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Brenda! Thanks for reaching out – while we haven’t tested it you could try swapping the basil for your favorite pesto (or vegan pesto). Since pesto is an oil-based sauce you’ll want to add only a table spoon at a time to help ensure the sauce blends to a desired consistency & doesn’t seem too oily. If the pesto contains garlic you may want to pair back on the garlic as well. Please let us know if you give it a try!

  11. 1.14.23
    Chris said:

    A question please. This is the first time of me making this pasta, can I use Almonds instead of cashews??
    Thank you

    • 1.15.23
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Chris! We’ve never tested it but you could try almonds (you might want to soak these overnight), or walnuts or pine nuts. Just know the flavors may change a bit & we’d still recommend using a high-powered blender to blend up the sauce. If you give it a try, please let us know!

  12. 10.23.22
    Alicia said:

    Hi 😊 do you think I could use spinach instead of arugula?

    • 10.23.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Alicia! Totally, spinach would be a great swap! We just like arugula as it adds a bit of peppery flavor 🙂

      • 10.23.22
        Alicia said:

        I used the arugula. It was delicious! 😋






        • 10.24.22
          Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

          Thanks so much for the follow up & review – we’re SO glad you enjoyed!! 🙂

  13. 6.20.22
    John Abrahante said:

    How is pasta vegan if it’s made with eggs?

    • 6.20.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi John! Our favorite type of dried pasta from DeLallo foods is all naturally vegan. It’s only ingredients are Durum Wheat Semolina flour & water & it’s made in an egg free facility. Many dried pastas that are made using traditional Italian methods won’t need egg – just be sure to check the ingredients list when you purchase your dried pasta at the grocery store & you’ll be good to go!

  14. 4.25.22
    Deme said:

    Omg, this is delicious! I just made it an hour ago and love it! So flavorful and satisfying! Your instructions are on point too! Thank you!






    • 4.26.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Deme! Thanks so much, thrilled to hear that you love it as much as we do!

  15. 3.24.22
    Holly Taylor said:

    Yummy






    • 3.24.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thanks so much Holly – we couldn’t agree more!!

  16. 2.10.22
    Nathan Ortiz said:

    Is there an alternative to the cashews? My wife is allergic to only cashews and pistachios.

    • 9.28.22
      Michelle Pappas said:

      Pine nuts

      • 10.6.22
        Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

        While we’ve never tested it, you could try pine nuts, almonds (you might want to soak these overnight), or walnuts. Just know the flavors may change a bit & we’d still recommend using a high-powered blender to blend up the sauce. If you give it a try, please let us know!

  17. 12.30.21
    Maureen Raynor said:

    I made this recipe for dinner tonight. It was delicious — a big hit with my family.






    • 1.17.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thank you for sharing, Maureen! So glad you & your family loved it!

  18. 12.9.21
    Jordan Smith said:

    Can I use salted cashews for this? Or maybe soak them in water first? Or do I need to go buy unsalted

    • 3.2.22

      Hi Jordan – I’d advise against using salted cashews, as they’re salted for snacking & not necessarily cooking. My concern is that it’ll create a pasta sauce that’s far too salty. Hope this helps!

  19. 11.16.21
    Ariella said:

    Daaaaaaamn girl. Perfection. Thank you!!






  20. 10.24.21
    Michelle said:

    This is absolutely delicious!! The flavors are amazing. Will be making again!!






    • 12.30.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Michelle! Thank you so much for sharing – we’re so glad you loved the flavors!

  21. 9.23.21
    Sarah said:

    I made this just as described. So amazing. There is a lot going on in this so beware- but it works. Not to add any more to this but one final thing that would really add to this would be a sprinkling of pine nuts on top to add a bit of crunch. That is literally the only thing it needs. Very easy too. Thank you






    • 12.30.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Sarah! Toasted pine nuts on top would be awesome – if you give it a try let us know what you think! So glad you enjoy the recipe, thank you so much for your comment!

  22. 8.28.21
    Mallory said:

    This is absolutely delicious.
    What is the nutritional info per serving?






    • 5.7.22
      Stanley said:

      Looks great!!! will try it this week.
      Nutritional information please

      • 5.10.22
        Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

        Hi Stanley! We’ve added the estimated Nutrition Facts label to the end of the recipe card – please let us know if you have any questions & hope you enjoy! 🙂

  23. 8.27.21
    Nathan H. said:

    I am a 25 year old dude who needed a quick meal to make because it was my turn to cook the family dinner.

    This recipe was awesome. My tum tum is very happy now.

    Thank you for sharing this.






    • 12.29.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Haha, thank you for sharing Nathan! Your tum tum is very welcome!

  24. 8.17.21
    Tish said:

    I made this tonight and even my picky vegan daughter loved it. I juiced a whole lemon and added a cup of parsley to the sauce because I needed to use it up. Really good!!






    • 12.27.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Tish! Yay – we’re so glad it was a hit! Thank you for sharing!! 💜

  25. 7.6.21
    Claudia said:

    Wow wow wow, this was heavenly

    • 7.10.21

      Yayyyyy, so, so glad you enjoyed Claudia! I love this one, too! xx

  26. 6.30.21
    Madison said:

    This recipe is quick, delicious, and healthy! I loved all the veggies in there and my whole family enjoyed it. Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe I will definitely be making it over and over again!

    • 7.2.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Madison! So glad to hear that you enjoyed – we love all the veggies packed into this one too, it makes it so hearty!

  27. 6.17.21
    Jessica Gregory said:

    I’m planning on making this pasta dish as a vegan option at my wedding. Can you tell me if I can freeze, and bake like a frozen lasagna? Does the sauce break? Please and thank you!

    • 6.20.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Jessica! First off, congratulations – how exciting & thanks for thinking of including this PWWB recipe as the vegan option for your big day! In full transparency, we haven’t tested freezing & cooking from frozen or freezing & thawing this recipe but know that other readers have had success. Please know, the texture of the sauce may change during the process & could require you to have to kind of bring it back to life with some fresh additional sauce upon thawing/ baking after frozen. If you want to prep ahead of time & freeze, we’d recommend doing a trial run & letting us know how it goes!

      • 7.7.21
        Jessica Gregory said:

        Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve decided to make it the day before, store overnight in my disposable buffet dishes, and reheating the day of. And I’m making extra sauce to add to it. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  28. 6.10.21
    L McQueen said:

    This is delicious. We loved the sauce. I add shrimp or chicken to this and it’s just as delicious.






    • 6.12.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      So glad you loved it & yes you can totally add more protein if you’d like! Thank you so much for your comment, it means so much!

  29. 5.27.21
    Jessica said:

    This looks really good but I’m allergic to tree nuts. Do you think tofu would be a good replacement?