Cacio e Pepe Pasta, But Make It Vegan With Zucchini and Oyster Mushrooms

A recipe for gluten-free, vegan cacio e pepe pasta, excerpted from the cookbook Good for Your Gut, by Desiree Nielsen

This dish is inspired by Chef Matthew Kenney’s delicious Kelp Noodle Cacio e Pepe. Cacio e Pepe is a classic Italian sauce traditionally made with Parmesan cheese and pepper that Chef Kenney recreates with cashews. I’ve substituted zucchini and pine nuts to make an unbelievably delicious low-FODMAP cream sauce that tastes garlicky, cheesy, and utterly craveable. Topped with beta glucan–rich, crispy, fried oyster mushrooms, it is a meal that will make you want to invite people over to share.


Zucchini Cacio e Pepe Pasta with Pan-Fried Oyster Mushrooms

Serves 3 to 4


  • 1 package (12 ounces/340 g) gluten-free pasta (see Tip)
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) pine nuts
  • 5 tablespoons (75 mL) avocado oil, divided (see Tip)
  • 1⅓ cups (325 mL) peeled and chopped zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
  • ¾ teaspoon (3 mL) salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon (2 mL) freshly cracked black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) nutritional yeast
  • 1 pound (450 g) oyster mushrooms, trimmed and separated
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) fresh thyme leaves
Tip 1: If you are not following a low- FODMAP diet, I highly recommend making this dish with chickpea pasta to provide extra fibre and enough protein to make it a more complete meal.
Tip 2: You cannot substitute olive oil in this recipe. The sauce has such a delicate flavour that any bitter notes in olive oil will throw it off.
FODMAP Note: Most mushrooms are high-FODMAP, but oyster mushrooms are the exception. If oyster mushrooms are not available and you are following a low-FODMAP diet, do not substitute regular mushrooms. Instead, sauté some kale or another low-FODMAP vegetable to accompany the dish.


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander, reserving at least ¼ cup (60 mL) of the cooking liquid. Rinse the pasta under cool running water. Return the pasta to the pot off the heat.
  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the pine nuts. Toast, stirring often, until the pine nuts are fragrant and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the pine nuts to a small food processor (or bullet blender).
  3. In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the avocado oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 7 minutes. If the zucchini is browning too quickly, reduce the heat to medium-low. You want the zucchini soft and golden, not crispy and brown. Season with ¼ teaspoon (1 mL) of the salt and some pepper. Transfer the zucchini into the food processor with the pine nuts. Wipe the pan clean.
  4. To the food processor, add 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the avocado oil, nutritional yeast, the remaining ½ teaspoon (2 mL) salt, and the pepper. Blend until smooth. It will be very thick at this point. Set aside.
  5. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 mL) avocado oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and fry, shaking the pan occasionally so they don’t stick, until golden brown and almost crisp on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn the mushrooms over and fry for 2 minutes more until golden brown. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, more pepper, and the thyme.
  6. Add 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to the sauce. Mix together to loosen up the sauce. (I like to blend with an immersion blender.) Toss the sauce with the pasta. If the sauce looks too thick, add more pasta cooking liquid, 1 tablespoon (15 mL) at a time, tossing after each addition, until the sauce coats the pasta well but is not runny. To serve, divide the pasta among shallow bowls and top with the mushrooms.

Good For Your Gut Cookbook

Excerpted from Good for Your Gut by Desiree Nielsen. Copyright © 2022 by Desiree Nielsen. Published by Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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