Recreating Vita Cafe’s Italian Pasta

On one of our first visits to Portland together, the boy and I visited the very vegan-friendly Vita Cafe, (in its original location!) in the Alberta District of Portland. Quaint, colorful and teeming with veg options on their menu, we were eager to check it out.

The old location, directly across from where Vita stands today. Photo credit:

Try as I might, I can’t remember what I ordered on that first visit, but we both know that the bf ordered their Italian pasta dinner. From their menu, it contains:

kale, veggie sausage, garlic, chili flakes and crushed tomatoes, sautéed in lemon and olive oil topped with toasted bread crumbs

I definitely remember stealing a few bites and thinking that it was one of the best restaurant dishes I’d tried in some time, yet it was composed of simple, basic ingredients.

Months go by, and we both couldn’t get that pasta out of our heads. So we decided to make it ourselves at home. This recipe has since become our standard recipe whenever we’re in the mood for pasta. It doesn’t use a sauce, per se, but rather depends on the flavor of vegetables and juice from tomatoes, vinegar and spices to make a delicious dish perfect for any night of the week. We took a few creative liberties here, most notably switching out many whole garlic cloves for only a few minced, and adding a lot more vegetables to the mix. But on the whole, we stayed true to the PDX-based dish that inspired us.

D + R’s Veggie Sausage Pasta

(Inspired by Vita Cafe’s Italian Pasta)

Yields: 3-4 servings



3-4 servings whole wheat pasta, uncooked
Hefty pinch of salt

Veggie “sauce”:

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 a bell pepper
1/2-1 small zucchini
2 vegan Italian sausages (we use Tofurky, but feel free to sub your favorite)
Splashes of balsamic vinegar and red wine
Dashes of the following spices: parsley, oregano, basil, paprika, rosemary, red pepper flakes, fennel seed
1/2 c. diced tomatoes with juice
Few handfuls of chopped kale (can use spinach, chard or another preferred green)
Broccoli, fresh or frozen
Asparagus, fresh or frozen, chopped
Bread crumbs (we use Panko)
Optional: Kalamata olives, nooch or vegan cheese

Heat salted water for the pasta on high. While waiting on that, start on the veggie sauce.

Saute the garlic and onion in olive oil for 2-3 minutes, until it smells like onions that are cooking. Add in the bell pepper, zucchini, sausages, vinegar, wine and spices and cook on medium-low heat. Stir every once in a while and add extra liquid if needed, or things may get dry/stuck to your pan.

The water should be boiling after a bit, so add the pasta in. Cook as directed.

Lower heat to low on the sauce and add the greens, tomatoes, broccoli and asparagus. Cover and cook until greens have wilted and broccoli/asparagus are bright green.

Drain pasta, serve some in a bowl and scoop veggie sauce on top. Add bread crumbs and any additional ingredients your heart desires on top. Serve and enjoy with a glass of your favorite red wine and maybe a green salad.

Have you ever recreated a dish you loved at a restaurant? What were the results?

PS: Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of Hannah Kaminsky’s cookbook My Sweet Vegan!