A long time back I experimented with a recipe for au gratin cauliflower. The recipe and the reviewers said it mimicked the real thing and no one noticed that it was cauliflower instead of potato! I was fascinated and quickly made up a batch for a healthier solution to a “naughty” side dish. In my opinion and my husband’s it was a failure. We weren’t impressed, we weren’t fooled, and it certainly didn’t keep me interested to try out other cauliflower mystery ingredient recipes.
More recently, however, I was making Shrimp Chowder. This recipe uses cauliflower and zucchini puree to create a healthy, creamy, thick base for the chowder. No dairy needed! It was a huge success with both my husband and me, and my quest for other cauliflower mystery ingredients had been re-engaged!
I decided to push the limits and try out a cauliflower puree base alfredo sauce recipe. Yep, really reaching for the brass ring on this one, I know. But what if, would that not be truly amazing!?
Here is the base recipe as posted by PinchofYum.com, Healthy Fettuccine Alfredo. Here is the recipe written out with either my changes or suggestions (bold and italics).
· 1 lb. uncooked fettuccine noodles
· 3 small heads cauliflower (I used 2 heads)
· 6 cups vegetable broth (I used 6 cups of Chicken Bone Broth)
· 6 cloves garlic, minced
· 1 tablespoon butter
· 1 teaspoon salt
· pinch of nutmeg
· pinch of black pepper
· 1 tablespoon olive oil
· ¼ cup heavy cream (I used coconut milk)
· 1 cup starchy boiling water from pasta pot (I used left over Chicken Bone Broth)
1. Chop the cauliflower. Bring the vegetable broth to a boil over medium high heat and add cauliflower. Cook until cauliflower is soft, about 15 minutes. In my experience, the longer you cook it, the smoother the sauce will be. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat (very large high rimmed skillet! You will end up adding the sauce back to this pan later!) . Add the minced garlic and sauté for 4-5 minutes or until soft and fragrant.
2. As the garlic and cauliflower are cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the fettuccine according to directions on package, reserving some of the starchy water to add to the sauce later (Again, I had more broth than I needed so I used the bone broth).
3. Transfer cauliflower to a blender with about 2 cups of the broth. You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your blender (Using just 2 heads, I had to split the cauliflower into 2 batches). Add the sautéed garlic, salt, nutmeg, and black pepper and puree until very smooth, about 5 minutes. Once the mixture is moving, stream the olive oil into the blender. Add more broth or water if the mixture is too thick to move through the blender. You want it to turn through the blender easily. When puree is very smooth, transfer back to the butter/garlic skillet. (I didn’t have to add additional broth or water. Each batch I ran through the blender had half of the sautéed garlic, salt, nutmeg, and black pepper and 2 cups of the broth)
4. Add the cream and cook over low heat. Add the starchy pasta water (or regular water if you’re not making pasta) and keep warm until ready to serve. Combine noodles and sauce in a large pot or skillet and serve immediately.
The sauce will “dry out” a little bit as it cools on the pasta. Adding a little water to the leftovers will help make it creamy again. Serving size is ⅛ of the noodles with about 1 cup of sauce.
· I served with spinach and chicken breast that we ended up just mixing into the pasta.
· I need more garlic taste and it needed more salt, so I added a generous amount of garlic salt. My husband enjoyed it, but felt it needs some work deepening the flavors. But we also have not had the left-overs yet, the tastes may have developed.
· I did let the sauce/pasta mixture sit for about 10 minutes before serving. It seemed to allow the sauce to set. But I had also added 2 more cups of broth than what the recipe called for as a result of me splitting the cauliflower into 2 batches when blending.
· Since I am not focusing on calories, I added a garnish amount of parmesan to the top of mine. I would recommend a high quality parmesan/reggiano combo or nutritional yeast to add a cheese punch. I also feel this would help with my husband’s complaint regarding the deepening flavors.
· My next batch will involve seafood. I think this would be a brilliant base for a shrimp/scallop combo or crab alfredo. With the addition of some Old Bay Seasoning, I could see this being very successful!
· Also, for my next batch, I would like to do some more experimenting with the noodle options. I would like to stick with a flat noodle, so the kelp noodles aren’t a preferred option in terms of shape. I might entertain one of the Miracle Noodle options, but I am not thrilled with the ingredient listing, or something similar.
I didn't realize it at the time, but this made a great baby food as well! Ian, my 9 month old loved the sauce. And why not? Its basically cauliflower puree with some healthy broth and some spices. He didn't like the noodles so much. But as I was eating the left overs I would share the sauce and bits of spinach with him. A dish the ENTIRE family can enjoy, bonus!