My fitness trainer loves pasta dishes and she asked me to make an Alfredo cream sauce that is vegan and loaded with flavour. Well, here it is. This sauce is nutritiously vegan, light and creamy, and packed with flavour. It’s also easy to make. The only equipment you need is a blender and an oven.
If you’re lactose intolerant, vegan or you just want to avoid dairy products, give this recipe a serious go. Even my husband John, who isn’t vegan or vegetarian, liked it. The softened cashews combined with the nutritional yeast give it a cheesy taste and creamy texture.
With any cashew-based sauce, what you want to avoid, is a sauce that tastes too much like cashews. To pump up the flavours, in this recipe, I added four garlic cloves (yes, lots garlic!!), a few slices of celeriac, lots of onions, fresh rosemary and some olive oil — all roasted/cooked together in the oven. I also added some vegetable bouillon, a bit of lemon juice, salt, pepper and whizzed all the ingredients in my blender until creamy.
Although John prefers refined pasta, this sauce can also be enjoyed with all kinds of pasta, such as wholewheat, quinoa, spelt, sprouted-grain, brown rice, legume or lentil pasta. I like to sprinkle lots of fresh parsley and grated parmesan cheese on top. The recipe is below.
I wouldn’t make this recipe if cashews were not good for human health. Yes, they are good for you and I eat them regularly. However, make sure that they are raw, unroasted and with nothing else added. Raw cashews are rich in protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc and potassium. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids and other heart-healthy fats. You can read on the health benefits of cashews here.
And, what is nutritional yeast? Nutritional yeast, is a deactivated yeast sold in the form of yellow flakes or powder. To produce it, yeast cells are grown on a sugar-rich medium, like blackstrap molasses, then heated to halt growth, harvested, washed, dried, crumbled and packaged.
It’s often used in dairy-free cooking and gives food that cheesy-savoury taste. Depending on the brand, the yeast is heaped with B Vitamins, B-12, protein, trace minerals and fibre.
Nutritional yeast can be purchased in health food stores or certain grocery stores (although it is difficult to find it here in Switzerland or France!). I use Bob’s Red Mill nutritional yeast.
Vegan Alfredo cream sauce
Makes just over 3 cups of sauce.
- 2-3 medium-large size (250 grams) cooking onions
- 4 big garlic buds (28 grams)
- A few big slices of celeriac (60 grams), with peels sliced off with a knife
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- Some olive oil (for roasting/cooking)
- 1 cup unsalted raw cashews, softened (see procedure)
- 1½ cups (or a little more) vegetable bouillon (homemade, store-bought or bouillon cube + water)
- 2 tablespoons (tbsps) nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsps pure lemon juice
- Sea salt & ground pepper, to taste
- Pasta of choice
- Parmesan cheese (vegan or dairy), grated for garnishing
- Fresh parsley leaves, chopped for garnishing
Heat oven at 204°C / 400°F
To soften raw cashews: Soak them overnight in a bowl covered with water or for two hours in boiled water. When done, rinse cashews in a strainer and drain/discard water. For a quick soak, in a microwave-proof bowl cover the cashews with tepid water. Put a lid on and microwave on high for 3 minutes. When done, transfer the hot cashews into a strainer and drain the hot water. Directly in strainer, cool down the cashews by running cold tap water over them.
Transfer the soft cashews to your blender bowl.
Chop onions in half. Place the onions, garlic buds, celeriac and rosemary in the centre of an aluminium foil sheet. Use a small knife to cut some slits all over the vegetables. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil all over the vegetables, then cover and seal making an envelope with the remaining foil. If need be, use more foil to ensure that the veggies are covered. Place the foiled veggie pack directly on your middle oven rack and cook for 45 minutes in preheated oven. You can use a pizza palette or a plate to slide the pack in and out of the oven.
When veggies are done, they should be fragrant and tender. Take out the rosemary sprigs but keep a few leaves for extra flavour. Transfer the cooked veggies with the olive oil into the blender bowl with the cashews (foil is hot, wear rubber kitchen gloves).
Then, add the veggie bouillon, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt & pepper and blend gradually increasing to high until creamy.
Transfer the mixture to a glass jar and allow to cool completely before refrigerating or reheat on stove top. Add some extra bouillon if you prefer a more fluid sauce. Enjoy on your cooked pasta. Here’s a tip for extra smoothness: Prior to serving, to the sauce, add a few tablespoons (or more) of the starchy pasta water in which your pasta cooked.
Sprinkle grated parmesan and chopped parsley on servings. That’s it!