When I was in high school, back when I didn’t care about silly things like nutrition and would sometimes have nothing for lunch except a can of Pepsi and a pack of Rolos (shudder), one of my favorite meals was fettuccine alfredo. I loved anything made with cream and cheese and thought nothing of downing a big bowl of dairy and pasta. In later years, classic mac n’ cheese replaced fettuccine as my pasta of choice, and remained one of my regular go-to meals until just a couple of years ago (though I graduated from Kraft to Annie’s organic pasta).
Now that I’m in the process of giving up things like dairy and gluten (I say “in the process” because I’ve cheated a few times, like last weekend when I indulged in stuffed pizza in Chicago), I knew my days of big bowls of cheesey, gooey pasta were behind me. So I was intrigued when chef Dave Lieberman offered up this dairy-free version of fettuccine alfredo on The Dr. Oz Show. Dave’s version, which contains only six ingredients, uses a cauliflower-based sauce and contains half the calories of regular fettuccine alfredo. Though it is dairy free, it uses chicken stock, but could easily be made into a vegan dish.
I tried it out tonight with a combination of gluten-free pasta I found in our pantry: rice linguini and quinoa spirals. With only six ingredients, the dish was easy to make. The cauliflower needed a little prodding to get it going in the blender, and the sauce turned out a bit thick. But it looked and smelled a lot like mashed potatoes. I took a few licks from my spoon, and was pretty excited that it tasted a lot like mashed potatoes. I don’t know that the sauce could have really passed for cheese, but it was thick and creamy and pretty darn tasty. “This shit is actually pretty dang good,” I told Ryan, who was less than thrilled that I had made carbs for dinner, but ate a big bowl of it anyway.
I don’t know that I’d put it into regular rotation (like I did with the excellent avocado chocolate mousse), but I’ll definitely keep it in my repertoire for an easy, guilt-free pasta dish. Next time, I might add a little more chicken stock to make the sauce a little easier to blend. The cauliflower mixture alone would also make an excellent stand-in for mashed potatoes. (Edited to add: I’ve also made a thinner version of this as a soup.)
Dave Lieberman’s Fettuccine Alfredo
1/2 lb. cooked pasta of choice
1/2 head cauliflower, cored removed and broken into small florets
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup grated vegan parmesan cheese substitute, plus more for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Steam the cauliflower for 20 minutes until very soft. In a small sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and cook the shallots until soft and translucent, stirring often, for about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and cook for five minutes longer. Set aside to cool.
In a large blender, combine the cooked cauliflower and the shallot-chicken stock mixture and puree until smooth. Pour the puree into the sauce pan and heat over medium heat until steaming. Remove from the heat, toss in the cooked pasta and add the grated vegan parmesan cheese.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and divide between two serving bowls. Top with more vegan parmesan cheese. Serves two.