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Caramelized Onion Apple Pasta with Sage (vegan + gluten-free)

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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Elaine Gordon
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


Caramelized Onion Apple Pasta with Sage is sweet and savory with a swirl of deep flavors thanks to roasted garlic and caramelized onions.


Units Scale

For the pasta

  • 1 large head garlic, roasted*
  • 3 caramelized onions (3 medium yellow onions)
  • 12 ounces pasta of choice (gluten-free if desired)
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt for pasta water
  • 3/4 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1/2 cup good-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 large apples, cored, peeled and diced (4 cups diced apple)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh sage (or Italian flat leaf parsley leaves) [plus more for garnish], minced
  • 5 ounces fresh baby spinach

Pecan Crumble:

  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt

Optional Garnishes:

  • fresh sage, chopped and/or Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • vegan Parmesan cheese (see notes)
  • freshly ground black pepper


  1. AHEAD OF TIME: Roast one head of garlic ahead of time (see how to roast garlic in the air fryer or the oven).  Caramelize 3 onions until crispy and golden brown.  If they are still soft and tender after one hour give them another 10 minutes on low heat.  Set aside.
  2. Make the pasta.  Fill a 5.5-quart dutch oven or pot with 10 cups of water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add 1/2 tablespoon of salt to the water.  Add the pasta and set a timer for the instructed cooking time on the box.  Once the noodles are done cooking, reserve 3/4 cup of the starchy pasta water before draining. Drain the remaining pasta water and place the cooked noodles back in the dry pot.  Toss with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to prevent sticking.  Set aside.
  3. Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add 1/2 cup olive oil, 4 cups diced apples, roasted garlic cloves, caramelized onions, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.  Use a wooden spoon to break up the roasted garlic cloves.  They will diffuse and sort of melt into the oil as they cook.  Saute the mixture until apples and fork tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Make the pecan crumble.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place 1 cup raw pecans on a bare baking sheet.  Bake pecans for 8 minutes until warm and fragrant.  Place toasted pecans in a mini food processor with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast and 1/4 teaspoon fine salt.  Process until fine and crumbly (about 10 seconds).  Set aside.
  5. Add cooked pasta to the 12-inch saute pan with the apples and caramelized onions and toss well.  Add 3/4 cup reserved pasta water and toss well over medium heat.  Saute for another five minutes until the water absorbs.  Add 5 ounces baby spinach and pecan crumble during the last minute of cooking.  The spinach will wilt from the heat during the last minute.  
  6. Turn off the burner and stir in the minced sage.  Taste and adjust flavors as needed. 
  7. Serve the pasta hot with desired garnishes (more fresh sage, vegan Parmesan cheese (see notes) and freshly ground black pepper).  
  8. Store leftovers once fully cooled to room temperature in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.  To reheat, add to a large skillet over medium heat with 1/2 cup filtered water.  Stir until noodles are soft again and the water is absorbed (about 5 minutes).  


* Cook time does not include time to caramelize the onions and roast the garlic.  If possible, do this in advance.  If not, add a full hour to the cook time. 

Here is my quick and easy recipe for Vegan  “Parmesan Cheese”: Whisk together 1/2 cup super fine blanched almond flour (not almond meal), 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.  Sprinkle like Parmesan Cheese.

Optional Add-In: Restaurant-Style Sautéed Mushrooms (use shiitake mushrooms for extra umami flavor!)

  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 35
  • Category: Dinner/Entree
  • Method: Stovetop