Food & Home

A Nutritionist’s Plant-Rich Sauces for Quick, Easy Pasta Nights

Written by: Margaret Willes


Published on: May 2, 2024

Photo courtesy of Friday Eve Photo

When nutritionist Karlene Karst was first developing Verily Kitchen—a line of versatile premade sauces ideal for pastas, soups, paninis, and more—she wanted to simplify meal prep for other busy moms like herself. But it also went much deeper than that: Having been diagnosed at the age of 20 with a rare autoimmune disorder, Karst knew firsthand just how much impact a whole-foods diet could have on one’s well-being.

Each of Verily’s offerings is plant-rich and nutrient-dense; they’re also a flavorful addition to any meal. (We especially love the silky cashew alfredo—you can order it, along with the rest of the line, from Vegan Supply.) But Karst, whose three kids are always eager for pasta night, says it’s almost as easy to whip up your own sauce from scratch. Find three healthful, simple recipes from Karst below, including a pesto you can prep in 20 minutes flat.

  • Arugula Walnut Pesto

    Arugula Walnut Pesto

    It’s great served with pasta, of course, but the real beauty of this recipe lies in its versatility: Use it as a marinade or dip or spread it on a sandwich or pizza; you can also gently cook an egg in it and serve it with toast. For a hit of umami, Karst turned to white miso: “It’s a game changer when you’re cooking plant-based sauces because it’s a fermented soybean paste, and so it gives this bit of a funky, sweet, mellow flavor that almost could mimic a cheese,” she says.


  • Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce

    Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce

    “Cheese sauces are so cozy and comforting—they make you feel like a kid,” Karst says. She made the base by steaming cauliflower and blending it—a clever tactic for mimicking the creaminess of a cheese sauce—and added nutritional yeast and spices to help give it a cheesy flavor. Toss the sauce with a short pasta or steamed vegetables or spread it on a flatbread.


  • Lentil Mushroom Bolognese

    Lentil Mushroom Bolognese

    To make this plant-rich spin on a comforting classic, Karst swapped the traditional ground beef and pork for mushrooms, red lentils, and ground walnuts. “When red lentils are cooked down, they get so soft and tender, and they are loaded with protein and fiber.” This sauce would work nicely paired with a long, flat noodle like pappardelle, tagliatelle, or fettuccine.