At least 6 hours and up to 1 day before you plan to make the recipe: Cover 1 cup of cashews in room temperature water. Let soak until ready to use.
Cook pasta according to package instructions, until al dente.
Remove the broccoli stem and chop broccoli into florets. Using your preferred method, steam broccoli for 2-3 minutes, until tender but not completely soft.
To make the cashew sauce, start by draining water from the soaked cashews. Add cashews and ½ cup soy milk to a food processor. A high-powered blender will also work. Process until cashews are mostly broken down.
Add remaining sauce ingredients to the food processor: 1 and ½ cups soy milk, nutritional yeast, flour, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, turmeric, vinegar. Process until smooth.
Lightly oil a 9x13 or 11x11-inch casserole dish. Add cooked pasta, broccoli, and chickpeas. Cover with the cashew sauce. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
Melt ¼ cup vegan butter in a small dish in the microwave or stovetop. Stir in the spicy panko breadcrumbs. Crumble this mixture on top of the assembled casserole. Cover the casserole with foil.
Bake covered for 20 minutes on the middle oven rack at 350 degrees F. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes, or until the panko is golden brown and crispy.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy warm topped with freshly ground black pepper.
Al dente pasta: You want the pasta to be fully cooked but not mushy. Use the shorter about of recommended time on the pasta instructions. For example, if the package says 8-10 minutes you'll want to cook the pasta for 8 minutes.
How to steam broccoli: There are a few ways to steam brocolli. I place a medium-sized pot filled with one inch of water on the stove over medium-high heat. Place a steamer basket in the pot (this is the set that I use and love because all of the parts come together). Cover with a lid and steam until the broccoli is al dente, about 2-3 minutes. You can tell it is ready because the broccoli is bright green and can be easiy pierced with a fork. If you don't have a steamer basket, you can use a metal colander or sieve.
Frozen broccoli: An equivalent amount of frozen broccoli can be used in place of fresh. Cook frozen broccoli until tender before adding to the casserole.
To make gluten-free: Substitue the pasta for your favorite gluten-free pasta. An all-purpose gluten-free flour mix can be used in place of the regular all-purpose flour. If unable to find gluten-free Panko, a gluten-free brand of regular breadcrumbs will work.
Non-dairy milk: If you are soy-free, you substitute with cashew milk. Choose a non-dairy milk that is unsweetened and unflavored for best results.