Cashew Alfredo Sauce

Fettucine alfredo image

Fettucine Alfredo

Do you want to know something funny? I never liked Fettuccine Alfredo before I was vegan. I ate it a few times because I had friends who loved it. I could never get over how heavy it was. Give me a simple garlicky tomato sauce or pesto any day! This all changed when I became vegan. It started as a challenge really. I was talking to a vegan friend, and we were discussing foods that we missed since going vegan. Either I’m an optimist, or I just have poor memory, but there weren’t many things I truly missed. However, my friend missed cheese, sushi, and Alfredo sauce. I sort of understood missing cheese and sushi to a certain extent, but I couldn’t fathom missing Alfredo sauce. So I decided to make one for my friend.

The thing about a good cashew Alfredo is that it’s made best with a high-speed blender. I have a Vitamix. I’m sure Blendtec or Ninjas (the blender, not the assassins) would be great as well. Sure, it’s possible to make this sauce without the high-speed blender, but it won’t be as smooth. The ingredients are pretty simple, and it’s almost foolproof. Adding a little more of this or that will change the flavor but won’t ruin it (with the exception of way too much salt).

After many experiments (all of them successful, of course… heh heh), I finally decided to write this recipe down because my mother-in-law asked me for it months and months ago. She’s not vegan… so that’s one of those fun vegan moments when you really want to help someone out with great vegan food… besides, it’s my mother-in-law. I want to make her happy. In the interest of full disclosure, I have procrastinated, and I’m writing this about six moths after her request… better late than never?

Check it out, and let me know what you think.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup raw cashews (you can use whole or halves and pieces)
  • 1 medium to large yellow, brown, or white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 ¼ cups water, divided
  • Approx. ¼ cup lemon juice (juice from one lemon)
  • 3 Tbsp. miso paste (white or yellow is fine)
  • 1 Tbsp. agave nectar
  • ⅓ cup or more of nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package of pasta (something flat or tube-ish works best… we like fettuccine, farfalle bow-ties, or penne)

Directions:

  1. Get a large pot. It’s a little bit of overkill for the onions, but then you can use it for boiling the pasta and then again for the heating the sauce and mixing it with the pasta… I’m all about trying to use as few pots as possible! Fry onions on medium heat with a dash of salt for about 5 minutes till soft and starting to caramelize a little bit. Be sure to stir occasionally to keep from burning. Add garlic and continue frying for another minute or so. Add about ¼ cup of water to de-glaze the pan. Remove from heat.
  2. While the onions and garlic are frying, add the cashews to the blender and blend until it’s a powder. Don’t overdo it because you don’t want cashew butter… just a nice powder. Note: you can soak the cashews for a few hours, but I never do.
  3. Add remaining 2 cups of water, the onion mixture, and all the other ingredients through crushed red pepper (if you’re using it) and blend on highest speed for five minutes. It’ll be relatively thin, but it thickens after it’s heated up and after it sits around. As soon as you start the blending, get the pot filled with water and about a teaspoon of salt, and get it boiling.
  4. Boil pasta according to directions. Ideally you want the sauce fully blended by the time the pasta is ready. Usually my sauce is done long before the pasta.
  5. Note: I use the entire recipe of sauce for a package of pasta, but you can start with ¾ of it and add more to liquify if needed. Pour the desired amount of sauce into the pot and heat on medium, stirring constantly. When it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, it’s ready for you to add the pasta to it.
  6. Add pasta and continue heating till sauce is thickened to your preference. Serve immediately with crushed red pepper, nutritional yeast, or your favorite vegan Parmesan.

Options:

Do you like Chik’n Alfredo? Add your favorite veggie chik’n in small chunks.

Missing your veggies? Add 3 cups of sautéed veggies. Zucchini, spinach, kale, green beans, broccoli… They all work great!

Into seasonal adjustments? Use local, seasonal ingredients. For example, add flavors of fall… nutmeg, butternut squash, sweet potato. Diced cooked sweet potato blended in the sauce gives it an orange color and a great autumnal flair.

Are you more in the mood for cheesy like Mac ‘n’ Cheez? Double the nooch in the sauce, put the finished pasta in an oven safe bowl, top with a melty vegan cheese, and broil till bubbly and melted.