Noodles have always been my number 1 comfort food. When all my classmates were bringing Lunchables to school, I was packing thermoses full of spaghetti smothered in peanut butter and teriyaki sauce. All these years later, “peanut butter noodles” still have a special place in my heart. They’re my go-to dish after a bad day, or when my husband is out and I’m on my own for dinner.
Over the years, the recipe has evolved along with my tastes. In its current incarnation, the dish is chock full of umami, with incredible richness and depth for a meal that only takes about 10 min to make.
This recipe is very forgiving and flexible, so don’t do too much measuring, and be sure to taste and adjust as you go.
(Should serve 2 adults, but I’ve been known to eat a whole batch in one sitting while watching reality TV on my couch…)
2 servings (¼ box) linguini of your choice
1 cup frozen spinach (or any veggie you have on hand)
2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter (Note: If using an unsweetened natural type, also add 1 teaspoon sweetener of your choice)
1 tablespoon of soy sauce (plus more to taste)
1 splash sesame oil
1 (generous) teaspoon gochujang or miso paste (Note: You can find these items in the ethnic food aisle at most grocery stores. I highly recommend having at least one on hand, as they can be used to add depth to any vegan dish, even ones that aren’t Asian-inspired. If you don’t have access to either, use an extra splash of soy sauce.)
1 generous squeeze of Sriracha or other spicy chili sauce
Optional add-ins (Use any or all you happen to have on hand.):
¼ cup dry roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2-4 ounces of tofu (or protein of your choice), tossed with a little soy sauce and sesame oil and warmed in the microwave or oven
1 handful fresh mint, cilantro, or basil
1 teaspoon red Thai curry paste
Bring water to a boil and add noodles. Set a timer for 4 minutes before the recommended pasta cooking time.
While the pasta is cooking, combine peanut butter and all remaining ingredients except for Optional Add-ins in a bowl. (To save dishes, you can use the bowl you’re planning to serve the dish in.)
Gradually add about 2 tablespoons of the pasta water to the peanut butter mixture, until it blends together into a smooth paste, however is still thick enough to stick to the sides of the bowl. (In this step, it’s better to err on the side of keeping the sauce too thick. You can always thin it out later, however it’s very difficult to tighten once you’ve added too much liquid.)
When there are 4 minutes remaining on the pasta cooking time, add the frozen spinach or other veggie.
Boil pasta and spinach for 4 more minutes, or until the spinach is defrosted and the pasta is tender.
Strain well, being careful to press out any excess liquid.
Toss warm pasta with peanut butter mixture, ensuring that all noodles are coated with sauce. If the sauce seems too stiff, add warm water 1 teaspoon at a time until it is thin enough to coat pasta. If sauce becomes too thin, add an additional teaspoon of peanut butter to noodle mixture, stirring well.
Stir in any of the optional add-ins.
Taste and adjust flavor by adding additional soy or chili sauce if needed. Serve warm, or at room temperature.