I am SO NERVOUS to put this pasta sauce on the internet. It is very special and personal to me, and I’m worried people won’t “get” it. But tofu is such a useful ingredient! And I think it gets shoved into a box a lot of the time, so I decided to finally out myself and say yes, I use tofu to make creamy sauces, and yes, it is f-ing delicious.
This extra-glossy-extra-saucy pasta looks like a standard tomato-cream sauce, but it will hit you like a flavor bomb. Also with zero cream, it’s completely vegan babayyy. Plus the sauce is gluten free (no thickener needed) so you can add it to some chickpea pasta and have an amazing gluten free, protein-packed dinner ready to go.
And the flavor of this sauce might take you by surprise, but in the best way. It uses East African spices as well as some Mediterranean inspiration to up the spice game and create a deeply intense flavor, while still being a super approachable, incredibly easy pasta sauce recipe.
Plus with a base of stewed tomatoes, canned corn and tofu, this is vegetable-packed, high protein sauce that you can use for a weeknight dinner, a packed lunch, or meal prep for the week. This recipe actually came about because of my meal prep, so I definitely recommend it for that! Also c’mon, who doesn’t want to bring a giant bowl of healthy pasta to the office?
Since this recipe is packed with spices and flavor, it’s important to talk about how to best use them! Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just throw spices into a recipe and expect them to be good.
It is crucial to toast your spices, especially in a recipe like this. It’s easy for their flavor to be drowned out by everything else in the sauce, but by toasting them with the garlic and olive oil beforehand, it allows their flavors to come out, combine and really sing in the recipe. (Did I just use the word sing to describe a pasta sauce? Yes….I don’t know what food blogging has done to me tbh).
And the spices are really choose-your-own-adventure based on your personal taste, but I encourage you to get creative! The spices I used are:
- Smoked paprika
- Chili powder
- Red pepper flakes
But there are so many others you could add! Harissa, cayenne, mustard seed, just to name a few!
And the star of the show, the main event is Miss Tofu herself. You can do this recipe with any firmness of tofu, I just had extra firm on hand. The important thing is to crumble it first, and then let it simmer and hang out in the pot for a while. This will allow for the tofu to absorb the flavors, better integrate with the ingredients and create an easy blending process when it comes time for that!
I used an immersion blender for this recipe, but if you don’t have one, no worries! Just take the mixture off the heat for about 1-2 minutes before you blend it. And be careful once you’re done blending! Before you take the blender top off, let it cool for a few seconds, otherwise you might have a tiny explosion on your hands.
(this is because blending hot liquids builds up pressure in a blender, I unfortunately know this from personal experience..whoops)
Once blended, put the sauce back on low heat and stir occasionally while you cook your pasta! And of course, reserve that pasta water. Once your pasta is done, adding a touch of pasta water when you mix in the sauce will really help everything combine.
And then we are left with the extra glossy, oh-so-beautiful, tofu pasta sauce! Again, you can’t be mean about the tofu aspect until you try it. You promise? Ok <3
And yes, I do love my immersion blender. If you’re looking for one too (it really does change your kitchen game) you can find the one I use here.
Creamy Tofu Pasta Sauce
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 can corn drained
- 8 oz. tofu any variety, drained
- 16 oz pasta of choice about one box
- Place a large pan or dutch oven on medium heat. Add the olive oil and garlic and saute for 2 minutes or until the garlic is lightly golden.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, chili powder and red pepper flakes. Toast the spices for 1-2 minutes.
- Add in the tomatoes and corn and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes or until fragrant. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
- Crumble in the tofu to the mixture and stir to combine. Use an immersion blender to blend all the ingredients into a smooth sauce. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a normal blender and then put the sauce back into the pan once it is smooth.
- Reduce the heat to low, and stir occasionally while you cook your pasta.
- In salted boiling water, cook the noodles to al dente, about 6-7 minutes. Reserve about ¼ cup of pasta water.
- Add the pasta to the sauce and combine, using the pasta water to emulsify if needed.
- Top with either nutritional yeast, parsley or cilantro. Serve warm!