Comforting and healthy, this creamy gigli pasta with broccoli and vegan white sauce hits the spot. Cauliflower and cashews blend together to make a lighter dairy-free, oil-free alfredo pasta sauce. The curly gigli pasta and broccoli florets hold onto the sauce, in this delicious Italian-inspired plant-based dinner.
There's nothing quite like a creamy pasta dish to soothe the soul.
This dish is more rich than my everyday creamy cauliflower alfredo sauce, since it has cashews added to it. However, with no added oil and all plant-based ingredients, it is a delicious drool-worthy pasta recipe to keep on hand for weeknight dinners and serving company alike.
🧄 Ingredient notes
Not pictured above: two 12-ounce packages of frozen broccoli from Aldi
- Gigli pasta - also known as campanelle, this curly, twirled pasta works really well with the creamy vegan white sauce, since the sauce clings to the curly ribbons and gets trapped inside the layers of twisted pasta
- Cauliflower - fresh cauliflower makes up the bulk of the sauce, which keeps this cream sauce light and low in calories compared to a sauce made from only cashews. It's also full of veggies before even adding the broccoli. Save time by using pre-cut cauliflower florets.
- Raw cashews - cashews add richness and body to the sauce
📋 Substitutions and variations
Here are some suitable substitutions for the ingredients:
- Gigli pasta - use campanelle pasta (another name for gigli) or another medium sized pasta, like casarecce, gemelli, penne, rotini, conchiglie or medium shells
- Fresh cauliflower - use 32 ounces (2 pounds or about 8-9 cups) frozen cauliflower florets/pieces instead
- Fresh garlic cloves - substitute with minced garlic (2 teaspoons) or garlic powder (1 teaspoon) but fresh is recommended
- Unsweetened almond milk - substitute with another unsweetened, unflavored plant-based milk like oat milk, soy milk or cashew milk etc.
- Frozen broccoli - substitute with fresh broccoli or frozen california blend, frozen green peas, cooked asparagus, cooked mushrooms, kale or corn
Here are some variation ideas to switch up this recipe:
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes to the finished dish to infuse a little heat. Or, use cajun salt, like Tony Chachere's, instead of sea salt while blending the sauce.
- Cheesy - add 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast to the sauce before blending. Or, sprinkle on top of the finished meal.
- Mushroom Asparagus - substitute broccoli for sautéed mushrooms and asparagus pieces, like we did in this Vegan Creamy Mushroom Pasta
- Kale and Corn - substitute broccoli for kale and corn, like we did in this Creamy Conchiglie Pasta with Kale and Corn recipe
- Use different pasta - instead of gigli/campanelle pasta, use a different shape like casarecce, gemelli, macaroni, rotini, shells, linguini, angel hair or fettuccini. For even more fiber, use whole wheat pasta.
- Gluten-free - use your favorite gluten-free pasta made of rice, quinoa or chickpeas instead of the gigli in order to make this gluten-free
- WFPBNO - make this whole food plant based no oil by using whole wheat pasta
- SOS-free - make this SOS-free by omitting the salt
- Nut-free - make this nut-free by making my creamy cauliflower alfredo sauce, which has no cashews. Use a nut-free plant milk when making that sauce recipe.
See this lighter version of vegan white sauce using just cauliflower (no cashews) on my website!
Step by step instructions for making gigli pasta with broccoli and vegan white sauce.
Start making the vegan white sauce first: Add cauliflower to medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil.
Add cashews and garlic and gently boil until the cauliflower is fork tender.
Drain cauliflower, cashews and garlic.
Transfer to blender, along with salt, pepper and almond milk.
Blend until completely smooth and thick.
Meanwhile, for the pasta, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook gigli pasta according to package instructions.
For the broccoli: While pasta is cooking, steam broccoli in microwave according to package instructions. See notes below for alternate way of cooking the broccoli, if you're using fresh.
Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining pasta. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add broccoli to pot with drained pasta.
Turn on burner to low heat. Pour enough of the white sauce into the pasta to coat it. You may or may not have some leftover. Add ¼ cup reserved pasta water, if needed. Stir and then taste it. Adjust salt and pepper, to taste. Turn off heat.
How to make this using fresh broccoli instead of frozen
If using fresh broccoli, then cut it into small pieces/florets. Peel tough outer layer of broccoli from stem and cut it into bite-sized pieces, smaller than the florets.
Add fresh broccoli to boiling pasta when you have 4 minutes left on the timer. This will cook the broccoli. Next, reserve some pasta water. Then, drain the pasta and broccoli together and transfer back to pan.
🧯 Food safety
- Wash hands with soap and water before cooking
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
⭐️ Expert tips
- Make the pasta slightly more saucy than you like. It will thicken in the few minutes of serving it. By the time you enjoy it, it will be perfect. 👌🏼
- If you have extra sauce, store it in the refrigerator to add to any leftovers to rehydrate them. If you don't have extra sauce, use a splash of almond milk instead.
- High speed blender (I use BlendTec)
- Large stockpot for boiling pasta
- Strainer or colander
🥡 Make ahead and storage tips
If you're making this ahead of time, I recommend storing the prepared sauce in glass jars separate from the cooked pasta and broccoli. Then, when you're ready to serve it, combine the pasta and sauce.
Any leftovers can be stored, but will thicken more in the fridge, so add extra sauce or a splash of almond milk when reheating leftovers.
These ingredients, stored separately or together will be good for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Freeze the sauce for up to 3 months in a glass mason jar with an airtight lid. Leave and inch or two of empty room at the top to allow it to expand in the freezer.
☕️ Tea pairing
This rich pasta recipe would be delicious paired with a silky oolong tea.
Store pasta with sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Store the white pasta sauce made with cauliflower and cashews in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freezer for up to 3 months in a glass mason jar with an airtight lid. Leave and inch or two of empty room at the top to allow it to expand in the freezer.
Usually not, as white pasta sauce is typically made with dairy cream and sometimes cheese. This recipe for white sauce is made with cauliflower, cashews and almond milk, so it is vegan and plant-based.
🗺 Cultural influences
Gigli pasta, also known as campanelle pasta, originated from Italy. Campanelle means "bellflowers", "little bells" or "handbells" in Italian.
Campanelle is a type of pasta that is shaped like a cone with a ruffled edge, like a flower. Traditionally, it is served with a thick sauce, whether dairy-based like cheese or béchamel or vegetable-based sauces using lentils, eggplant, beans, pumpkin or other chunky vegetable.
💜 More recipes you'll love
If you love this gigli pasta recipe, check out these other vegan, plant-based pasta recipes!
Gigli Pasta with Broccoli and Vegan White Sauce
Make the vegan white sauce
- Add cauliflower to medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Add cashews and garlic and gently boil until the cauliflower is fork tender.1 whole head of cauliflower, ½ cup raw cashews, 2-3 cloves garlic
- Drain cauliflower, cashews and garlic. Transfer to blender, along with salt, pepper and almond milk. Blend until completely smooth and thick.1 teaspoon sea salt, ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, 1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
Make the pasta
- Meanwhile, for the pasta, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook gigli pasta according to package instructions.16 ounces gigli pasta
Steam the broccoli
- For the broccoli: While pasta is cooking, steam broccoli in microwave according to package instructions. See notes for alternate ways of cooking the broccoli, if you're using fresh.24 ounces frozen broccoli in steam-able bags
Assemble the finished pasta
- Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining pasta. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add broccoli to pot with drained pasta.
- Turn on burner to low heat. Pour enough of the white sauce into the pasta to coat it. You may or may not have some leftover. Add ¼ cup reserved pasta water, if needed. Stir and then taste it. Adjust salt and pepper, to taste. Turn off heat. Serve hot.