Sometimes the best meals are created out of necessity when you have to make something to get rid of what’s in your fridge. That was certainly the case today as I needed to figure out what to make for dinner, but didn't want to go grocery shopping so I decided to make something with what I had.
I knew it had to be pasta based, because, quite honestly, that’s about all I have here at the moment, and so without any tomato sauce or jarred pasta sauce, I had to come up with a sauce for the penne I was going to make.
I figured if I fiddled around a bit, I could come up with a vegan alfredo sauce with the cauliflower and tofu I had in the fridge. I’m not reinventing the wheel here. There are many vegan alfredo recipes out there that are made with either tofu or cauliflower or cashew nuts. But little did I know…
What came out of my experimenting was a rich and creamy vegan alfredo sauce that would fool most people into believing it was full of fat and dairy. Garlicky and thick, with that hint of umami from the nutritional yeast and the requisite pinch of nutmeg at the end that makes homemade alfredo sauce so good.
For the pasta, it was also a matter of getting rid of a few things. I bought this huge pile of mushrooms from Costco recently that I’ve already used for three meals and I’m still working on. They are called ‘Baby Bellas’ which are basically baby Portobello mushrooms and I love them. They are much more mild than regular Portobello mushrooms, which, quite frankly, I’ve grown sick of.
I think I overdid portobellos when they were the requisite veggie burger choice at many, many local restaurants when I was younger. But these Baby Bellas are a refreshing change. If you can’t find these, any old mushroom will do.
As for the edamame, it seemed like a natural pairing with the mushrooms and we usually have some in the freezer. Peas would make a good substitute if you don’t have any.
Vegan Alfredo Sauce
1 cup medium or firm tofu (don’t use extra firm as it has less water and won’t blend as nicely
½ a large cauliflower, cut into chunks
¼ c nutritional yeast
¼ c unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 clove garlic
½ tsp onion salt
½ tsp garlic powder
1tsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper or more to taste
In a medium sized pot, cook cauliflower in boiling water until soft, approximately 8 minutes. Drain cauliflower and put to the side, allowing it to cool down. While cauliflower is cooking, saute garlic in about 1tbsp olive oil or oil of your choice.
After allowing cauliflower and sauteed garlic time to cool down, put all ingredients in a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix and blend until creamy. Taste for seasoning and put aside. You should end up with something that looks like this:
3 cups penne, uncooked
2 ½ c sliced Baby Bella mushrooms or mushroom of your choice
½ c. edamame - I used the frozen kind in the pod, thawed and shelled
1 clove garlic
Cook penne as per package directions. While pasta is cooking, saute mushrooms on medium high heat in a large saute pan, in olive oil. When mushrooms are almost cooked, add garlic. Adding garlic after the mushrooms will prevent garlic from burning. Stir frequently until garlic is cooked through but not browning and mushrooms are nearly cooked.
Add edamame and stir to warm, about 2 minutes. Add above alfredo sauce to pan and heat through. Turn off heat. Add penne pasta, a drizzle of olive oil and serve immediately.