Creamy Vegan Pasta Marinara

One night after a long night at work, Alex whipped us up an impromptu vegan pasta dinner. Rummaging around, he found some canned tomato puree and spaghetti noodles in the cupboard, and a few shallots in the pantry. Digging in the refrigerator, he unearthed some jarred capers and some leftover cashew cream. The creamy, savory pasta that resulted was so good I kept asking him, how exactly did you do that? Of course his response was, I have no idea. He was cooking by intuition. After writing a food blog for seven years and then writing a cookbook, taking notes while cooking is second nature for us, just in case a great idea strikes. But this one caught us on sneak attack.

It took a few weeks to nail down the “lost” recipe, but after making it several times we got it back again. It’s a supremely savory sauce, where garlic, shallots, and capers all work together with the cashew cream to make as much umami as possible in a vegan pasta recipe. So.darn.good. We knew we’d be making this one for years later.

We shot the photographs together, and the preview images looked beautiful. After editing, Alex presented the final photos to me for this post. I couldn’t wait to see the photos of the creamy, comforting vegan pasta marinara so I could remember eating it all over again. Except when we looked at them together, there was something not quite right. The image of the pasta was flat and lifeless. Something was not quite evoking the comforting, creamy umami experience that was the creamy vegan pasta marinara. Both of us looked at it and said, Oh.

It’s difficult to capture emotion in food. It involves a lot of thinking about plates and napkins and forks and THE LIGHT and the mood and vibe and angle and the burnished copper finish on the fork and maybe if that noodle moved a little bit to the left? And even after what felt like a successful shoot, a lifeless photo. It was a little disheartening.

Except, Alex decided to go back to the drawing board with the same photo. He brought it up in Photoshop and this time put a new filter on it. The new filter made the colors shine and brought in a warmth that was missing from the original image. Then, instead of showing the entire plate of pasta, he cropped in so you could see the gooey details of the sauce and the contrasting tangles of the noodles. This time, when I looked at it, the photo said creamy vegan pasta marinara. I loved it.

I tell this story because it’s like life, in a way. How many times do we look at an aspect of our lives and say Oh. It’s not quite what I was expecting. There’s something that’s not quite right. And it’s disheartening.

But what if, like Alex, we could apply a new filter to our lives? What if we had a new filter that enhanced the color and brightness? And what if we could crop in to where we could clearly see the detail (and a little bit of the mess!) and realize that what’s there is truly beautiful?

A simple change of perspective can cultivate a heart of gratitude, if we let it.

And now, to go eat all the creamy vegan pasta marinara. (PS it’s also a fabulous pizza sauce.)

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