Almost Vegan Pasta Alfredo with Cauliflower and Pecans
Thank you to the American Pecan Council for sponsoring this post.
Once in a blue moon, a certain alchemy sets in when I’m cooking and I manage to churn out a recipe that feels just shy of magical. Today’s Almost Vegan Pasta Alfredo with cauliflower and pecans is one of those. I first made the dish over a month ago and have had it on repeat ever since. If you’ve bumped into me at a yoga class, my local post office, in line at the bank, the farmers’ market, or any other possible place I’ve appeared in the past 30 days, I’ve probably talked your ear off about it. My apologies. I do get excited about these things.
A More Nutritious Alfredo
For those of you who haven’t been in my immediate sphere, let me fill you in. It’s pasta Alfredo: a tasty mess of noodles coated in a creamy sauce and finished with a light shower of Parmesan cheese, if so desired. What’s missing, though, are the standard Alfredo ingredients: heavy cream and butter.
Pecans Are the Secret to the Sauce
So how then, does one land on a cream sauce without the cream? First up is to swap out less nutritious Alfredo ingredients for something that delivers richness, but is better for you. Enter American Pecans. They blend up beautifully after a brief soak in milk and add a mild sweetness, much like you get with heavy cream. Nutritionally, the pecans also deliver fiber, good-for-you monounsaturated fats, plant-based protein, and phytonutrients. The sauce gets an additional nutritious bump from a few cups of cauliflower (which also adds volume and texture).* The impact of these swaps from a nutrition standpoint is huge.
Easy to Make Cream Sauce
Beyond how this sauce stacks up nutritionally, I also find it a snap to prepare, making weeknight meal planning that much less stressful. You cook the cauliflower in the same water as the pasta, then blend it with pecans, milk, and lemon, along with salt and pepper. That’s it. Toss with pasta and Parmesan and you’re done.
Almost Vegan Pasta Alfredo
I refer to this recipe as “almost vegan” because I couldn’t bring myself to leave out the Parmesan cheese. Luckily, just one-third of a cup tossed in at the tail end is all it takes to bring the dish together. If you’d like to leave it out or swap in vegan Parmesan, by all means, go for it. By the same token, if you don’t have oat milk on hand, feel free to use low-fat cow’s milk instead. It will be delicious either way.
Now that the recipe is officially off my plate, I do hope it finds its way to yours. And I’d love to hear if a little bit of magic happens in your kitchen as it did in mine.
Be sure to check out these other easy and tasty pasta dishes.
Pecan Pasta Primavera with Pecan Parmesan Topping by the American Pecan Council
Almost Vegan Linguine with Cauliflower Pecan Alfredo
A fresh and far more nutritious spin on standard Alfredo, this version gets its creaminess from a blend of pecans, oat milk, and cauliflower. It’s “almost vegan” because the recipe calls for grated Parmesan, but feel free to leave it out if you’re looking for an entirely plant-based pasta. Either way, the flavorful sauce punctuated with lemon zest and juice will have you asking for seconds.
- ⅔ cup pecan halves
- 1 cup oat milk (or cow’s milk)
- 2 packed rounded cups medium cauliflower florets (7 ounces)
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1 pound linguine
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or vegan Parmesan, plus more to garnish
Put the pecans in a blender and cover with the oat milk. Leave to soak (don’t blend yet).
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and garlic and boil until tender enough to easily pierce with a knife, 5 to 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the cauliflower and garlic, drain well, and add to the blender.
Bring the water back to a boil and add the pasta. Cook according to package directions until al dente.
While the pasta cooks, add the lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper to the blender. Puree until silky smooth.
When the pasta is done, scoop out ½ cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and return immediately to the pot. Add the pecan/cauliflower sauce, Parmesan, and enough pasta cooking water so the sauce lightly coats the pasta. Serve immediately with more Parmesan to pass at the table.
*According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pecans, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving (28g) of pecans contains 18g unsaturated fat and only 2g of saturated fat.
Image credit: Alanna Taylor Tobin | The Bojon Gourmet