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Pappardelle with Vegan Saffron Cream Sauce

Pappardelle with Vegan Saffron Cream Sauce (all photos from Deborah Brooks)

There’s something so fabulously decadent about saffron. Perhaps it’s the price! At an average cost of $12 per gram which multiplies to over $5,000 per pound, it’s not a seasoning you sprinkle on every meal like salt and pepper. So when imagining a special dish to make for my upcoming wedding anniversary, saffron seemed the perfect touch of decadence for the celebratory meal. Luckily a good pinch, equal to about a gram’s worth, was all that was necessary to take a simple vegan cream sauce from sumptuous to sublime. 

If you’re not familiar with saffron’s unique flavor profile the best way to describe its taste is a heavenly combination of subtle earthiness and sweet floral notes. Many ethnic dishes use saffron such as Spanish paellas and Indian biryanis, so chances are you’ve enjoyed its complexity. It also tinges foods cooked in its brine, a distinctive deep yellow color, which adds a sunny glow to this pasta dish. So pretty!

If you’re looking for a special pasta dish as a starter or main course, Pappardelle with Vegan Saffron Cream is a lovely option. 

Chef’s Tips:

  • Buy the best saffron you can afford. Most markets and specialty food stores carry small jars of the red threads. The most effective method for cooking with saffron is to steep the stamen twigs like tea in boiling water for 5 minutes. You add it all to the sauce. 
  • I’m partial to pappardelle for cream sauces. I found this excellent eggless Italian brand at Homegoods, my go to for great deals on imported foods. Tagliatelle would be a good option as well. I used 10 oz dried pappardelle which made for a well sauced pasta dish. For less saucy use 12 oz. 
  • Timing is key as it’s best to transfer the pasta directly from the cooking water into the sauce. Better for the sauce to be finished before the pasta to avoid having to drain it into a colander and to also avoid overcooking the pappardelle. Not too much sooner, though, as cream sauces break down as they sit. Whisk up the sauce if that happens. 
  • I grate the garlic on a rasp as I want it to melt into the sauce. No bites of garlic chunks for this meal. Finely minced is okay. When garlic is this small it can burn easily so keep an eye on it once added to the pan. Stir up often. 
  • You can find the Violife vegan Parmesan wedge, as well as their vegan butter at Ralph’s, Whole Foods, Target and Lassen’s. Both excellent plant-based dairy products that fool your tastebuds. 
  • Lemon, like salt is a personal taste preference. You can add less for a milder tang. 
  • Using a canned oat whipping cream is a great dairy cream replacement and easier than my usual cashew cream that I make from scratch as a base for cream sauces. It also has a more neutral taste.  Empty the entire can of oat whipping cream into a bowl and whisk up before measuring as it separates in the can. Store the remainder in a covered container in the fridge for other uses, including mac and cheese and cream soups. It’s available at Whole Foods. 
  • I finished the pasta with grated cheese and fresh cracked black pepper to give it a bit of a cacio e pepe vibe. Optional. 
Sauce ingredients

Pappardelle with Saffron Cream Sauce

Serves 3-4 depending on appetites and how much pasta you add 
1 heaping tsp saffron threads
1/4 cup boiling water
1 T good EVOO
3 cloves grated or finely minced garlic 
4 T vegan butter 
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup oat whipping cream (see chef’s tips)
2/3 cup grated vegan Parmesan 
1 T fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste
10-12 ounces dried (eggless) pappardelle pasta or tagliatelle, depending on how saucy you like your pasta

Grated vegan Parmesan 
Fresh grated black pepper (optional)

Have the sauce ingredients measured and ready to go. Have the salted pasta water at a low boil but don’t add the pasta yet. Timing is key. The sauce should be ready just before the pasta is cooked. You will be transferring the pasta directly from the cooking water into the sauce. 

Put the saffron threads in a small bowl. Pour 1/4 cup of boiling water and let steep while starting the sauce.

Heat the T of olive oil in a wide and deep sauté pan. Add the garlic and sweat for about 30 seconds stirring up to prevent burning. 

Add the white wine and bring to a rolling simmer and let it reduce down

You can start the pasta at this point

Add the butter in 3 increments, whisking up to emulsify between additions.

Add the saffron with water and let it reduce down by a third.

Whisk in the oat cream. Let it cook and bubble a bit.

Whisk in the Parmesan cheese til smooth and melty

Whisk in the lemon juice. If it separates a bit whisk a bit more vigorously.

Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste 

When pasta is just al dente transfer it directly to the cream sauce using a large strainer to remove the pasta cooking liquid. A bit is ok as the starch helps thicken the sauce. 

Cook the pasta in the sauce tossing it up well to coat every noodle and to heat through. Add more pasta water if necessary. 

Serve immediately topped with grated vegan Parmesan and fresh cracked pepper. 


Refrigerate leftovers. Reheat gently in a saucepan or in the microwave with a bit of plant milk.

Plant-based dairy replacements
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Deborah Brooks
Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.

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