Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rotini with Chickpeas and Kale in a Creamy, "Cheesy" Hummus Sauce: Healthy Vegan Pasta

I'm halfway through the 28-Day Engine 2 Challenge I undertook with a group at Whole Foods, and it actually has been pretty easy sticking to what is fundamentally a vegan diet, with the added complication of no oil (or at least very limited oil). I have good energy, feel "lighter" overall and I have dropped 5 pounds as of today. Not too shabby. It's fun to get together with the "support group" on Monday nights and compare notes. The group has dropped in number from the first week. I'm not sure if people have given up the challenge (wimps!) or just aren't making the meetings--but the group that is left is dedicated and in it to win it. "Winning it" in this case means sticking to the challenge plan for the whole 28 days.

Cravings-wise, overall I am still wanting comfort food and I am not craving too much that I can't have on the plan (it's important to focus more on all the yummy food I can have). I have had occasional cravings for sushi and cheese (not at the same time of course!) ;-) The other night I came home tired from a long day and in need of something comforting and quick to make. I wanted pasta and I really wanted a cheesy-creamy sauce to top it with. Needing to improvise, I hit the fridge and pantry for inspiration. I had made the oil-free Healthy Homemade Hummus in the E2 Diet book (pumped up with more spice) and decided to use it as the base for a creamy sauce. To cover the "cheesy" part, I pulled out one of my new favorite things--nutritional yeast. I have been sprinkling these nutty, cheesy flakes on salads, tostadas, pizza, etc. the past couple of weeks and thought it would be perfect to blend into the hummus, then thinned to a good sauce consistency with some almond milk.

With a can of chickpeas and a couple of cups of chopped frozen kale, it made a very tasty sauce that hit the spot. Served over multigrain pasta, it was a filling and healthy dinner that felt like something decadent.

Rotini with Chickpeas and Kale in a Creamy "Cheesy" Hummus Sauce
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 4 Servings)

1 cup hummus (prepared or homemade or see recipe below)
1/2 cup almond milk, plus extra for thinning
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 can low-sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cups chopped kale (I used frozen chopped Kale from Whole Foods)

1/2 lb whole grain rotini or other pasta of choice

Prepare pasta according to package directions and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add hummus and almond milk to pan and whisk until smooth. Add nutritional yeast and continue to whisk until blended and smooth, adding additional almond milk as needed to get sauce to the right creamy consistency. Add chickpeas and kale and heat through.


Healthy Homemade Hummus
"The Engine 2 Diet" by Rip Esselstyn
(Makes about 2 cups)

1 can chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, chopped (I doubled this amount)
2-3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 tsp Braggs Liquid Aminos or low-sodium tamari
3 Tbsp water or vegetable broth
(1 heaping tsp ground cumin)
(1 pinch cayenne)

Blend all ingredients into a thick paste, using a small amount of water as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

Notes/Results: It might sound a little odd but this was really pretty perfect. Since my hummus was flavorful and slightly spicy, it made for a great sauce and the nutritional yeast added just the right feeling/taste to make me not miss cheese at all. The chick peas added good hearty texture and the kale is a tasty way to work some nutrient-packed greens in. I happily ate it the first night and reheated the leftovers over the next few days, enjoying every bite. I think another batch will end up back on the dinner rotation this week. A definite make-again recipe.

Note: Nutritional yeast, which can be purchased in most natural foods stores, has 45 calories per (2 Tablespoon) serving, it's low in fat, sodium and sugar and has 4 grams of fiber. It's a good source of protein and magnesium, and a very good source of dietary fiber, B-12, B-6, zinc, and other minerals.

Have you discovered the glories of (or tried) nutritional yeast yet? ;-)

I'm sending this healthy pasta dish to Presto Pasta Nights, founded by Ruth and hosted this week by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes. Jacqueline will be rounding up a big bunch of wonderful pasta recipes on her blog Friday so stop by and check them out.



  1. Ciao Deb ! This pasta sounds so nice it would work even on any binge day for me !

  2. I love nutritional yeast! I don't use it very often but every so often I'll sprinkle it on my pasta in lieu of parm. And it's SO good for you! This sounds absolutely delicious!

  3. So good you can stick to it and be satisfied! Sounds like a great comfort dish!

  4. Using hummus as a sauce for pasta sounds like pure genius to me. I'd definitely be on board for a plate of this. Congrats on sticking with the plan and also on the 5lbs!

  5. I love the idea of this hummus sauce with the pasta, this is such a healthy and delicious meal!

  6. Thank you so much for this recipe, it sounds delicious. I have a huge container of nutritional yeast in my cupboard but I've only used it once before. It's a pretty new ingredient to me so I don't really know how to use it.

    Also, congrats on doing so well in your challenge! 5 pounds is nothing to scoff at at all. Best of luck for the win! :)

  7. I have never thought about using hummus as pasta sauce: what a nice combination of ingredients you have in this nutritious dish!


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