Ixta Belfrage’s vegan recipe for rigatoni with rocket cream | Vegan food and drink

I lived in Italy for a few glorious years, and the family of my childhood best friend, Giuditta, owned a restaurant called La Casellina in the Tuscan hills outside of Rufina. We ate there all the time, and I fell madly in love with many of the dishes on the menu. One of them was ravioli with arugula cream – ravioli with a rocket sauce and topped with cream and cheese. The cream in today’s dish is inspired by this sauce, although it does not contain any dairy, and I used silken tofu, which is quite untraditional. The flavor of tofu is completely undetectable, however – it simply provides a smooth, creamy base for the sauce.

Rigatoni with arugula cream

My fridge almost never runs out of a jar of Seggiano’s peperoncino cream (Calabrian chilli paste). You can buy it online and at many Italian delis, and I add it to everything from sauces, soups and stews to salad dressings. If you can’t get it, use dried chili flakes instead.

Preparation 10 minutes
To cook 15-20 minutes
Serves 4

250g dried rigatoni
Salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
plus extra to serve
5g Sage leaves

For the salsa
2 large ripe tomatoes, halved (300g)
½ teaspoon Seggiano crema di peperoncino (calabrian chilli paste)or dried pepper flakes, to taste
2½ tablespoons olive oil
1 small clove of garlic
peeled and finely grated or mashed
½ teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon fine salt

For the rocket cream
300g silken tofu
arugula 50g
15g basil leaves
plus 5 extra sheets for serving
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon dried onion granules
1 small clove of garlic
peeled and roughly chopped
¾ teaspoon fine salt
Freshly grated nutmeg
to taste

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente (see packet instructions), then drain, reserving four tablespoons of cooking water.

While the pasta cooks, prepare the salsa. Grate the tomato halves on the large holes of a box grater and put the pulp in a sieve over a bowl to drain for a few minutes; discard the skins. Put the drained pulp and half a tablespoon of tomato juice in a bowl and mix with the chilli paste (or flakes), oil, garlic, lemon juice and fine salt.

Put all the ingredients for the cream in a blender with about 10 turns of the pepper mill and blitz smooth. Pour the cream into a large sauté pan and put it over medium heat. Add the pasta and reserved cooking water and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until the sauce is hot and the pasta is coated, then set aside.

Put the butter and oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat and, once the butter has melted, add the sage leaves and fry, rotating the pan, for about 75 seconds, until crispy and bright green, then season generously.

Transfer the pasta to a dish and top with some of the tomato salsa. Garnish with the crispy sage leaves and a little of their butter oil, finish with the remaining basil leaves and a little flaked salt, and serve immediately with the remaining salsa on the side.