Date night pasta is perfect for two people to indulge in on a romantic night in. Or for two platonic friends to eat on a random weeknight. OR for you to eat the entire thing yourself while binge watching Parks and Rec for the 5th time. It doesn’t actually matter; it’s just a damn good pasta dish that’s pretty simple to make.
Table of Contents
- Ingredients for Date Night Pasta
- How to Make Date Night Pasta
- Tips for Perfect Pasta
- More Vegan Pasta Recipes
Ingredients for Date Night Pasta
- Pasta of choice. Any shape you like. I go for pasta that’s “bronze cut,” which gives it a slightly rough and porous texture that holds onto sauce better. Regular Teflon-cut pasta has a more slippery texture.
- Extra-virgin olive oil and vegan butter. A combination of these two fats will give the sauce a rich texture and flavor. You could use just one or the other, but this is my preference flavor-wise. For a really special sauce, I recommend a high-quality vegan butter like the one from Miyoko’s Creamery.
- Red pepper flakes. Optional, if you like a little (or a lot of) heat. Pro-tip: Add it to the olive oil first and allow it to “bloom” for about 30 seconds to extract the most flavor and heat before adding the rest of the ingredients.
- Fresh cherry or grape tomatoes. These lend a really nice sweetness to the dish, along with a fresh tomato flavor that isn’t as robust or concentrated as a traditional marinara or other sauce made with canned tomatoes.
- Garlic. Is there such a thing as too much garlic? You can use as much as you like in this recipe. A garlic press makes it easy to crush plenty of cloves quickly, while also producing a garlic paste that will dissolve into your sauce.
- Fresh basil. Getting fresh basil for this recipe is definitely worth it. It packs tons of flavor and freshness into this simple pasta dish and you won’t want to substitute in the dried stuff. Give it a coarse chop or a chiffonade.
- Vegan parmesan cheese. Our go-to brands are Follow Your Heart (available pre-shredded), and Violife (comes in a wedge that you’ll need to grate yourself). There are many other options on the market as well nowadays, including from Trader Joe’s and Daiya.
- Fresh lemon juice. A squeeze of this brightens everything up and really highlights the sweetness of the tomatoes and the fresh flavor of the basil. Every good sauce needs a little bit of acidity for balance.
- Pasta water. A key ingredient for the most luscious, velvety pasta sauce. The starch in the reserved pasta cooking water helps to thicken the sauce so that it clings to the pasta.
- Salt & pepper. To preference.
How to Make Date Night Pasta
- Cook pasta of choice in heavily salted water, making sure to keep it al dente. Follow the instructions on the packaging but reduce cook time by 1-2 minutes. We’re going to finish cooking the pasta in our sauce.
- Before you drain the pasta, reserve about a cup of the starchy pasta water. More on this below.
- Heat up your olive oil in a large skillet and add in your red pepper flakes. Bloom them in the oil to bring out some extra flavor.
- Add in your pressed garlic and your halved tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes have released some of their water into the sauce and are nice and broken down.
- Give your basil a chiffonade or rough chop and add it to the sauce. Add in your butter along with the parmesan cheese. At this point, you’re also going to add in the first of your pasta water, starting with 1/4 cup. This should be just enough to bring everything together, melting the parm and creating a velvety sauce.
- Squeeze in your lemon juice, give your sauce a stir, and add in your pasta.
- Cook for a few more minutes, gently mixing to ensure the pasta is fully coated in sauce. Add in more pasta water little by little until the sauce is smooth but not too runny.
- Serve and top with red pepper flakes, extra parm, or some more fresh basil. Or all three!
Tips for Perfect Pasta
Undercook the pasta slightly.
Drain your pasta when it’s still very al dente, then allow it to cook the rest of the way in the pasta sauce. This gives it a chance to really absorb some of the flavors in the sauce.
Don’t be shy with the pasta water.
If you haven’t been reserving some of the starchy pasta water to add to your sauce, you’re missing out! Adding this to your sauce will make it much more cohesive and velvety, since the starch will thicken it and help it to cling to the pasta. It will also help to “stretch” (i.e. give more body/volume) to a simple sauce like this one.
I always like to reserve about 1 cup of the water before draining my pasta — but you won’t always need to add this much. Simply add it to the sauce a little bit at a time, stirring well to combine, until you achieve a texture you’re happy with. I like to add a little to the sauce ingredients before adding the pasta, and then sometimes a little more after adding the pasta if it seems a little dry.
More Vegan Pasta Recipes
Date Night Pasta
- 8 oz pasta of choice al dente
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- 4-6 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 10 oz cherry or grape tomatoes sliced in half
- 1/2 oz fresh basil chiffonaded
- 1 tbsp vegan butter
- 1 cup grated vegan parmesan cheese Violife, Follow Your Heart
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3/4 cup reserved pasta water or as needed
- salt and pepper to taste
Cook the Pasta
- Cook pasta according to package directions until very al dente. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce.
- Begin preparing the sauce in the meantime. Before draining pasta, reserve about 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water to thicken the sauce.
Make the Sauce
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Optionally, add red pepper flakes and allow to bloom for about 30 seconds.
- Add garlic and tomatoes and sauté for 5-8 minutes, until tomatoes have broken down.
- Add in fresh basil, butter, and vegan parmesan. Begin adding the pasta water, starting with about 1/4 cup, stirring to melt the parmesan. Add additional pasta water gradually, stirring to combine, forming a velvety sauce. Squeeze in fresh lemon juice.
- Add al dente pasta and stir to coat with sauce. Continue to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring often, and adding additional pasta water if needed.