Pasta Primavera with Creamy Cauliflower Sauce

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One bite of this creamy sauce made from steamed cauliflower and you'll be hooked! Nutritional yeast, almond milk and sauteed garlic and onion give it a rich, alfredo-like flavor. Toss with whole grain pasta and sauteed veggies to make this vegan pasta primavera. 

Last week in the Weight Loss Without Calorie Counting program I just wrapped up, the topic was how to plan balanced, weight loss friendly meals without counting calories. We were discussing recipe modification when one of the participants brought up a totally yummy sounding lasagna recipe, featuring 3 types of cheese. I gave her some suggestions, but as I was driving home, I kept thinking there was some other way to keep the creamy, cheesiness of it without, well, cheese.

That’s when I remembered this recipe I’ve been meaning to share featuring a rich, creamy sauce without a single speck of cheese

Yes, I am actually suggesting cauliflower as a cheese substitute. If it’s coming from a cheese aficionado like me, then you know it’s good!

I first heard of cauliflower sauce from Pinch of Yum, who have created an entire ebook filled with cauliflower sauce creations. However, I wanted to create a vegan version, so I turned to one of my favorite vegan blogs, Oh She Glows. Bingo!

Seriously, you will fall in love with this cauliflower sauce! It amazed me that a vegetable I used to associate with bland, soggy frozen mixes can transform into something so rich. If you've got a high powered blender, like a Vitamix or Blendtec, I bet the results are even better.

Sometimes cauliflower is thrown in the category of “if it’s white, don’t bite.” Generally speaking, brightly colored fruits and vegetables are more nutrient dense, but don't overlook this cruciferous veg! Cauliflower is a surprising source of vitamin C, with 85% your daily needs in just one cup. It contains many other antioxidant nutrients too, including beta-carotene, caffenic acid, kaempferol, cinnaminic acid and quercetin. These antioxidants would provide plenty of cancer protection themselves, but then add glucosinolates, a detoxifying compound, and you've got a cancer fighting machine!
This sauce is a game changer. I've got so many ideas for how to use it, I should seriously stalk and befriend our nearest cauliflower farmer or hold up the next truck that makes a delivery to our grocery store, or, you know, learn to grow it myself (but whats the fun in that?). Here's what I'm thinking:
- Use it as a cream sauce for eggplant lasagna
- Add Indian spices and use as a base for curries
- Lighten up spaghetti carbonara
- Use it as a creamy base for a vegetable pizza
- Bake it with brown rice and broccoli for a creamy casserole
- A vegan moussaka with lentils and eggplant
And that's just a fraction of the ideas I can't wait to bust out in the kitchen! But for now, I hope you enjoy this creamy bowl of pasta, packed with summer produce!
Pasta Primavera with Creamy Cauliflower Sauce
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: Serves 4
Sauce adapted from [url href="http://ohsheglows.com/2014/01/20/cauli-power-fettuccine-alfredo-vegan/" target="_blank"]Oh She Glows.[/url]
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces 100% whole wheat penne
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, in florets
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 medium yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 pint sungold tomatoes, halved
  • Chopped basil, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Place cauliflower in a large bowl with a couple tablespoons of water. Microwave for 8-10 minutes until tender.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Place cauliflower, sauteed vegetables, almond milk, and lemon juice in a food processor and blend until smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Heat an additional tablespoon of olive oil in the same large skillet on medium-high heat. Add squash and saute until lightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and saute and additional 2 minutes until softened. Add cauliflower sauce and warm through, 2-3 minutes. Add pasta and stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper.