Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Crab and Veggie Pasta with Healthy Alfredo Sauce

Maria Von Trapp may prefer raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, and those are all fine and good. But if I were to write a song about my favorite things, Alfredo sauce would be in it. It's hard to beat that rich, buttery, garlicky, creamy goodness.

However, since I've been trying to eat healthfully (most of the time), Alfredo sauce and I haven't gotten to hang out quite so often. Because when you're trying to cut down on calories and fat, it's hard to justify eating a plate full of pasta swimming in heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. I once tried a healthified Alfredo made with Greek yogurt and found it to be gross (and it didn't taste remotely like real Alfredo). So I resigned myself to the reality that things like Alfredo sauce just cannot be made healthy and still be good--that it should be reserved for special occasions and splurges, where you eat the full-calorie version but very infrequently.

And then this Alfredo sauce happened.

Believe it or not, it's made with cauliflower. And believe it or not, it's actually good. Now, it doesn't taste like it has a stick of butter or a quart of heavy cream in it . . . because it doesn't. But it does have this great, velvety texture and rich, creamy taste. Cauliflower, I didn't know you were capable of such greatness.

I used this cauliflower-based Alfredo sauce in a recipe that has become a standby with two of my friends from way back when. Quite often when we're together and can't decide what to cook, we land on this dish which we've always just called Crab Pasta. We use imitation crab meat (classy, I know) and have used varying combinations of mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes, spinach, onion, and black olives.

I hope you enjoy!

Crab and Veggie Pasta with Healthy Alfredo Sauce
Sauce from Pinch of Yum
Yield: 4 servings

For the Sauce
1-1/2 small heads cauliflower, chopped*
3-4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch black pepper
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/8 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)

All the Rest
1/2 lb. whole wheat fettuccine, spaghetti, or angel hair pasta (uncooked)
Olive oil
1/2 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 oz. mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. dried tarragon
8 oz. lump-style imitation crab (or the real deal)
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the vegetable broth to a boil and add the cauliflower. Cook on medium-high heat until cauliflower is soft, about 15 minutes. The longer you cook it, the smoother the sauce will be. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, saute the 3 cloves garlic in butter until tender and fragrant. Transfer the cauliflower and about 1 cup of the cooking broth to a blender or food processor. Add the sauteed garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and puree until very smooth, about 3-5 minutes depending on your machine. Once the mixture is moving, stream the 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil in. If needed, add more broth or water if the mixture is too thick. When the sauce reaches desired consistency, transfer to a medium saucepan. Add cream; cover and keep warm until ready to serve, stirring occasionally.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain but do not rinse. (Note: the creator of the Alfredo sauce recipe recommends keeping 1/2 cup of the pasta water and adding it to the Alfredo sauce. I didn't do this, as my sauce seemed a fine consistency.) 

Get the skillet you used for the garlic earlier. Heat olive oil over medium heat and add the asparagus and mushrooms. Saute for a few minutes, until veggies are almost tender and asparagus has brightened. Add tarragon, remaining 2 cloves garlic, and crab meat. Continue to cook until garlic is fragrant and crab is warmed through. 

While the vegetables cook, combine the pasta and Alfredo sauce, stirring well. To serve, place pasta on a plate, and top with vegetable and crab mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

  • The Pinch of Yum blogger lives in the Philippines where the heads of cauliflower are apparently much smaller. Using 1-1/2 heads of cauliflower from my North American grocery store yielded quite a bit more sauce than I needed--enough to generously sauce the pasta plus save some extra sauce for a future use. So you could probably use just 1 head of cauliflower and be fine.
  • I will probably use more garlic next time because, really, when have you ever eaten something and thought, "This has too much garlic"?
  • If it's not quite Alfredoy enough for you, you might consider mixing traditional Alfredo sauce with this Alfredo sauce. Maybe 1 part traditional to 2-3 parts cauliflower-based.
Nutrition Information (from My Fitness Pal)
Note: For nutrition facts purposes, I figured the amount of sauce I made would be 6 servings rather than 4, and adjusted other amounts to match. So if you make the recipe above as written, then proceed to eat 1/6 of the sauce and 1/4 of the pasta, crab, and veggies, these nutrition stats should be accurate.

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