I love the trend to use cauliflower in place of carbs or cheeses for a healthy choice. Not that I’m trying to cut calories so much as I like the flavor changeups. The cauliflower pizza crust is delicious, and I miss cauliflower in mashed potatoes made without them now. I have a new favorite vegetable! I saw a recipe using cauliflower in Alfredo sauce and had to try it the other night.
I was serving some very flavorful cranberry ribs and wanted a simple side dish. Cauliflower Alfredo over pasta sounded like a good idea. I followed the recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie, but I adapted it to suit our tastes. It was pretty bland and was going to taste even blander beside our spiced up ribs, so I added a few things Katie had suggested..
I started by using 2 cups of roughly chopped cauliflower. The recipe called for 1 ½ but I wanted to use up the remaining cauliflower in my fridge. The deviations often start that way, don’t they? You want to use something up and it snowballs from there.
I put the cauliflower, milk, garlic powder and salt into a medium saucepan and brought it to a boil. A caution here: milk scalds easily, which mind did while my back was turned. It had just begun, and wasn’t burnt, so I simply poured it into another saucepan and continued cooking. I covered it and let it simmer for 15 minute.
Next I used my immersion blender (You could use a regular blender) and pureed it until it was mostly smooth. I tasted for seasoning and decided it needed something more. I looked at the recipe again where she gave ideas and added a teaspoon of lemon juice.
Still pretty boring, so I added a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Getting better, but I still was imagining a bland dish when added to pasta, which can wash out flavors. I saw her note about cheese flakes or something like that and decided it just had to have Parmesan. I added a half cup, stirred until it melted, then taste tested.
Another half cup of Parmesan later, I had my alfredo sauce. It was flavorful and it wouldn’t get lost when I mixed in the pasta.
I brought a large saucepan with salted water to a boil, added my pasta (I used mafalda, but any pasta would do) and cooked it until al dente. As Mario Batali says on ‘The Chew’, follow the box directions for al dente and subtract another minute. That is usually so true! I drained the pasta, reserving several cups of pasta water for finishing.
I’d poured the cauliflower alfredo sauce into a large nonstick skillet and heated it on medium. I dumped the pasta in and stirred until it was coated. Simmering for 3 or 4 minutes, the pasta absorbed most of the moisture from the sauce, so I added a half cup of pasta water and stirred well.
2 or 3 minutes later I added another ½ cup of pasta water when it was again looking dry. The pasta was absorbing flavors from the liquid. I always use this method to integrate the sauce with the pasta. That’s why we want it quite al dente to begin with: so it can finish off by absorbing flavors.
The pasta was done and plated with our ribs. I loved the flavors, my P.S. gave a slightly weaker “It was good” reply. He’s not as big a fan of cauliflower I’ve noticed.
I appreciate that the recipe is done to be more health conscious, but I couldn’t help but think how much adding even just a quarter cup of chopped, crispy bacon would add to the flavor. And maybe a wee bit more cheese. That would put it way out of the realm of health conscious recipes, but I’m just saying I’d like to try that as well sometime.
The way just cauliflower and milk thickened was interesting and definitely would be handy for those on a gluten-free diet. Even just putting it on sliced or cubed potatoes that had been precooked would make a very easy side dish. With or without cheeses, bacon and other gluten-free things. Even adding it to a soup to make it more of a chowder is a possibility. This sauce could become the new roux!
I list the recipe as it was written, with the original ingredients and my changes in parenthesis.
Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce
12 ounce dried pasta your choice; cooked al dente according to box directions (I used mafalda)
1 1/2 cups raw cauliflower; chopped fairly small (I used 2 cups)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk (I use 2%)
cheese of your choice (optional) (I used 1 cup of grated parmesan)
Optional: Add a little Dijon mustard or lemon juice if desired. (I used a teaspoon of each)
You might also add dried oregano or rosemary
Put first 5 ingredients into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is fall-apart tender.
Puree with an immersion or regular blender. Place in large nonstick skillet and heat to medium. Taste for seasoning, adding Dijon, lemon juice, or more salt as desired.
Add cheese of your choice (optional).
Cook pasta and drain, reserving several cups of pasta water.
Place pasta into skillet with sauce and stir to coat. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, adding pasta water if it begins to be dry. (I added about a cup total more)