ROASTED TOMATOES (optional, but recommended for a pop of color and sweetness): Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add the halved cherry tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Arrange tomatoes cut side down, sprinkle with salt, and roast for 25-30 minutes until the tomatoes are tender and the skins have shriveled slightly.
PASTA: Add 3 quarts (~3 liters) of water and 1 Tbsp salt to a large pot. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add pasta, stir, and set a timer according to your pasta package instructions.
PESTO SAUCE: Meanwhile, to a high-speed blender, add cashews, water, basil, spinach, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and salt. Blend on high until smooth and no bits of cashew remain — about 1 minute. Taste and adjust as needed, adding more lemon juice for brightness, cashews for richness, nutritional yeast for savory notes, or salt to taste.
Test pasta for doneness. When it’s ready, drain the pasta and rinse under cold water until it’s warm but no longer steaming. Return the pasta to the pot (off the heat) and add in the basil pesto sauce. Stir to coat, but avoid heating as the sauce will lose its bright green color.
Divide between serving bowls and garnish with roasted tomatoes, vegan parmesan cheese, and freshly chopped basil (all optional).
Leftovers keep stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer up to 1 month. Reheat in the microwave or a saucepan, adding a little water as needed to rehydrate.
*We didn’t find soaking the cashews necessary in this recipe when using a high-speed blender (Vitamix). If not using a powerful blender, soak the cashews in hot water for at least 20 minutes. Then drain and blend. *Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with Trader Joe’s Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli and 1/4 tsp salt in the pasta water (since the full tablespoon isn’t absorbed into the pasta), and without optional ingredients. *Loosely adapted from our Creamy Vegan Pink Pasta and Easy Vegan Pesto.