New year, new diet? Bring it on! Nobody likes to go on a diet, but it’s a little easier when you have recipes like this one. I created this dish to satisfy my craving for Fettuccine Alfredo, pasta with a rich and creamy white sauce. While I like to indulge in the real thing every once in a while, I can’t do it all the time and stay at a reasonable weight. This Roasted Cauliflower Alfredo with Peas satisfies my craving for creamy pasta without all the fat and calories. It replaces the heavy carbs and cholesterol with healthy gluten free vegetables and probiotic Greek yogurt. It’s a nourishing and flavorful meal, and it couldn’t be easier to make.
Alfredo sauce has a charming history. In Italy it is always served with fettuccine pasta and is often referred to by another name, fettuccine alla Romana. The concept is very simple– butter and cheese and sometimes cream, melted together over hot cooked fettuccine noodles. The dish was made popular by a chef named Alfredo di Lelio, owner of the restaurant Alfredo in Rome. When Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks stopped by his restaurant during a trip to Europe, they fell in love with the simple yet decadent dish. To show their gratitude for Alfredo’s hospitality, the couple gave him a golden fork and spoon. When Fairbanks and Pickford returned to Hollywood, word of the dish quickly spread. The simple and decadent Fettuccine Alfredo preparation became popular all over the United States.
Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, early 1920’s. Library of Congress.
I love Alfredo sauce (who doesn’t??), but butter and cream is not on my menu at the moment. I’m trying to shed a few holiday pounds, and those rich ingredients aren’t going to help matters. I decided to create an Alfredo-style sauce using lowfat milk, Greek yogurt, and cornstarch as a thickener (potato starch works too). The sauce includes parmesan, like the original, but in a much smaller amount. To cut down on carbs and add vitamins, I subbed roasted cauliflower and peas for the pasta. The roasted cauliflower is naturally caramelized and full of flavor. The sauce is creamy and rich. While not exactly the same as Alfredo sauce, I think I actually enjoy this sauce more… it’s got a very slight tartness from the yogurt, and the creaminess isn’t too heavy, which means it won’t give you that “I ate too much, my tummy hurts” feeling. If you use roasted cauliflower, I don’t think you’ll miss the pasta… but just in case you do, this sauce can be served over fettuccine (or any other pasta) as well.
This could be served as either an entree or a side dish, depending on your preference. We like to eat it as a light main course. I could also see it as a side dish for fish, if you need a little more protein on your plate. It’s healthy comfort food, so eat up! Mangia! Buon appetito. 🙂
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Roasted Cauliflower Alfredo with Peas
- 3 lbs cauliflower (large head or 2 1/2 lbs pre-cut florets)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
- Salt and white or black pepper to taste
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Pull the leaves off of the cauliflower base. Cut off the lower part of the stem. Cut the head of cauliflower into four quarters. Slice each quarter into 6-8 pieces. Give all the florets a thorough rinse in a colander. Shake them dry.
- Spread the florets out in an even layer on 1-2 baking sheets. Drizzle the florets evenly with 1 tbsp olive oil. Toss the florets to coat them fully with oil. I use clean hands for this.
- Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven and let the cauliflower roast for 10 minutes. While the cauliflower is roasting, pre-measure the remaining ingredients and have them ready to go by the stovetop.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Use tongs to turn over the florets, making sure that the florets with flat surfaces are pressed directly against the baking sheet. This will enhance caramelization. Return the baking sheet to the oven. Let the cauliflower roast for 10-20 minutes longer till tender. When it's ready you will be able to pierce it easily with a fork. For more detailed cauliflower roasting instructions with step-by-step photos, click here.
- While cauliflower finishes roasting, prepare your peas and alfredo sauce. Place frozen peas in a small saucepan with 1/3 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stir, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes till warmed through. Drain.
- Meanwhile, make your Greek yogurt Alfredo sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in cornstarch or potato starch to form a thick paste.
- Add the milk slowly, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly to keep the sauce smooth. Once the full cup of milk has been added, heat till the mixture thickens and becomes bubbly around the edges. Do not let the milk come to a full boil.
- Pour in the grated parmesan and whisk to melt the cheese into the sauce. Turn heat to low. Whisk in the Greek yogurt till smooth and heated through. Remove from heat. Season with salt and white or black pepper to taste (I use about 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp pepper). As written, the sauce is nice and thick; if you'd like it a little thinner, add 1/4 cup more milk and continue to heat till you reach the texture you desire. Keep in mind that the sauce will thicken more as it cools.
- Place the roasted cauliflower into a large mixing bowl along with the cooked, drained peas. Toss to combine.
- Serve each portion of roasted cauliflower and peas with the warm Greek yogurt Alfredo sauce.
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