I didn’t set out to avoid dairy or eggs in this dessert. Nor did I intend to make this single serving as chocolaty as it ended up. But so it goes. And this Vegan Chocolate Pasta Dessert is no-bake too. Easy to put together with leftovers or pantry ingredients, I can see why it works well as a Christmas Eve tradition. It’s perfect when you can’t imagine baking or cooking a dessert, yet still yearn for a sweet.
It’s not a model of neatness. In fact, its rather unruly look is part of this dessert’s charm.
Here’s the story of how my version came to be.
Last week I attended a pot luck at the DC Chapter of Les Dames D’Escoffier. Despite the rather snooty title, it’s really a lovely group of women, all of whom work in some capacity in the food world. Some members are chefs, others are in PR for restaurants, and several are food photographers. Still others are, like me, are food writers. A few, like my friend Jessica, wear many food and travel-related hats. In any event, members have backgrounds and professional experiences that never cease to fascinate me.
Due to my sweet tooth, my default at pot lucks is almost always dessert. So, true to form, I brought dessert to this pot luck. My contribution was a poppy seed cake, decorated for the season. Although I made it look fancy, the cake is almost too easy. The title of the post about the recipe says it all. Poppy Seed Cake – No Secrets, No Shame.
Anyway, as I stood by the desserts, I struck up a conversation. Another woman nearby began telling me about a traditional Northern Italian Christmas Eve dessert she remembered from her childhood. She smiled, remebering how her (female) relatives layered cooked spaghetti with cinnamon and sugar and chopped, toasted walnuts, then weighed it down and refrigerated the no-bake “cake” for 4 hours. She had looked in vain for the recipe – or something like it – online, but had never come up with it. Nor could she tell me what her family called it, in English or Italian. All she had was the memory of how it was made and how much she enjoyed the final result.
When I left the pot luck I was obsessed. Like my pot luck friend, I could not find anything resembling the dessert online. And believe me I tried. Although I consider my treasure-hunting online research skills to be excellent, I came up empty. Finally, I gave up the online search and turned to my kitchen and my valued taste tester, my beloved.
My first try included chopped pecans instead of walnuts and angel hair pasta instead of spaghetti. We agreed that chocolate was essential, so I added chopped bittersweet chocolate as a new layer after the cinnamon and sugar and nuts. That first attempt was good, but not good enough.
With a few changes, with apologies to my tradition-loving friend at the pot luck, we got to the right result for us. Instead of toasted pecans, I went with toasted pistachios.
And I cooked the pasta a bit more, softening it and then cutting it roughly so it wouldn’t be too stringy.
Then I grated the chocolate instead of chopping it.
And voilá – Vegan Chocolate Pasta Dessert!
Tips for Making Vegan Chocolate Pasta Dessert
- Well-cooked pasta. In order to make good layers, you need soft pasta. We liked ours cut short to limit the stringy quality of the pasta layer, but I think the original probably used spaghetti at its full length.
- Lots of cinnamon and sugar. This is dessert. And the pasta is not sweet. So don’t be shy about sprinkling on the cinnamon and sugar.
- Parchment paper, a knife, & weights for easy unmolding. I’ve unmolded all of my single serving chocolate pasta ramekins without difficulty. I am convinced that the trick is using a parchment paper round on the bottom, weighing the dessert down as it cools, and using a small, sharp knife to release the edges before you turn the ramekin over.
I liked mine with a bit of homemade limoncello. But my beloved had his last night with coffee. And tea would be a fine accompaniment too.
Of course, you should feel free to use the concept and then take liberties. Change the nuts to whatever you like best. Use a different kind of chocolate. Or mix several chocolates if that’s what is in your pantry. And as to angel hair vs. spaghetti – you decide what works best – or do as I did and use what you have. The ramekins I used are large. Feel free to make the portions smaller. Whatever you do, enjoy the season and your family and friends.
Vegan Chocolate Pasta Dessert
A no-bake, single serving recipe that will satisfy your sweet tooth without straining your holiday timetable.
- 1 tablespoon oil or butter substitute (If non-vegan, can use butter)
- 3 ounces angel hair pasta (uncooked) 84 g
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 & 7/8 oz/55 g
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup finely chopped nuts 3 oz/85 g
- 3 ounces grated chocolate (bittersweet is typically vegan. Non vegans can use milk, semisweet, or a combination) 65 g
Trace the bottom of a ramekin on a piece of parchment and cut out a circle to fit inside the ramekin at the bottom. Grease the ramekin. Add the parchment circle and grease that, too.
Break the pasta in half and cook it until soft (a bit beyond al dente.) Drain, rinse with cool water, & drain again. Then cut pasta roughly into pieces about 1-2-inches/2.5-5 cm.
Mix the cinnamon and sugar in first bowl. Put the nuts in the second and the chocolate in the third.
Put about a half teaspoon of the cinnamon/sugar mixture in the bottom of the ramekin (on top of the greased parchment) and toss it around until it covers the bottom. Then add a layer of the pasta - about a third of the total angel hair, followed by a bit less than a third of the remaining cinnamon/sugar, followed by a third of the chopped nuts and topped with about a third of the grated chocolate. Repeat the layering twice more, so you end up with three layers. the top is grated chocolate.
Place the smaller ramekin (or a small cup or bowl) so that it fits into the ramekin filled with the mixture. Weigh the smaller ramekin down with pie weights or dried beans. Press it down. Refrigerate the ramekins for at least 4 hours or overnight. If you get the chance to press them down once or twice more while they are chilling, that's good but not essential.
Once fully chilled, remove the smaller ramekin, use a small sharp knife to cut around the sides of the large ramekin and turn it over onto a plate. Lift the ramekin. If desired, add a bit more cinnamon and sugar on the top. Enjoy!