Creamy sauces have gotten a bad rep. But not this bad boy! Based off of my vegan alfredo sauce, this creamy cajun pasta is loaded with veggies and tossed with oodles of cajun spices and lemon zest. Prepare to be blown away…creamy has never tasted this healthy or this good!
Hi my name is Mila and I love pasta. Any pasta. With oodles of noodles and marinara sauce. Coated with delicate infused olive oils and tons of garlic and black pepper. And lately…I have been known to steal some of my munchkin’s plain buttered noodles with heaps of good Parmesan on it. I am not ashamed. Not even a bit.
I was worried at one point. Because naturally pasta is evil right? Pasta makes you far right? I was afraid…I was very afraid.
But then amid my crazy worries about becoming obese and forever controlled by pasta…I met an Italian chef at one of my jobs. A REAL ITALIAN. Not the Jersey variety. But the one who was born and raised in Italy. Who lived there for 27 years of his life. Who still goes back several times a year and STILL considers it his home. The one who appreciates the simplicity of a good olive oil, a simple pasta and plenty of garlic. He was relatively thin, as was his wife, as were his kids.
I walked into the kitchen during the end of a crazy lunch rush and could only hear the swirling sounds of the dishwasher and the loud humming of the exhaust fan. I noticed he was hunched over one of the many stainless steal tables reading his specials menu for the evening and a small plate of orechheti (ear shaped pasta) broccoli and plenty of garlic and chili flakes in front of him.
“Mass!” I yelled to him. His name was Massimo… but we all called him Mass. He instantly spewed some sort of profanity in Italian at me because I had the scared the living Maria out of him and then invited me over for a bowl of pasta.
I stared at the pasta bowl practically salivating and grabbed a bite. Salty, chewy and garlicky. Perfection.
“Alright Mass, spill it. How the hell do you Italians eat so much damn pasta and still stay so thin. This isn’t normal you know,” I finally said to him.
Mass let out a huge roar of laughter and shook his head at me, followed by some Italian words my ears were not yet trained to understand.
“Bella, [that means pretty girl in Italian] in Italy we enjoy pasta for lunch, in a few once portions, followed by a good salad and a nice espresso. The pasta is enjoyed and not devoured. It’s a lifestyle, bella. We eat in the kitchen not in front of the tv. Our pasta rarely has cream in it. See this pasta, it has everything good in it. Garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil, broccoli and yes some pasta. But Mila, I do not eat like this every day and I do not eat 1 pound of pasta in a sitting.”
I looked at him…and for the first time I understood. Pasta was NOT the enemy. The sauces were. Mass continued to explain that in America, EVERY sauce was finished off with butter. It was a foreign concept to him, because his sauces were served with olive oils and extra virgin at that.
Mass was right of course. America was KING of creating ridiculously creamy sauces that wear the hat “Italian” but in reality seldom are. Italians aren’t known for creamy sauce. Ask a REAL Italian (again not the Jersey variety) what an Alfredo is and they will say..”it’s my brother’s name.”
In Italy, Alfredo is a name not a sauce.
So BASICALLY Italians aren’t fat (well except majority of the cast of Sopranos, RIP Tony) because:
- They eat locally.
- They eat smaller portions.
- They actually take time to eat the food and celebrate instead of slamming down two doughnuts and milk loaded coffee with loads of sugar.
- They are the proud owners of the Mediterranean diet. One of the best diets known to man. Grains, fresh, seasonal veggies and fruits, beans and legumes, pasta, fish and the occasional meat and poultry. Yup I can totally do that.
So fast forward 7 years later and Mass’s words still echo in my brain. My pasta is frequently (not always) combined with veggies or delicious marinara and tons of garlic and red chili flakes. And most recently it is combined with my vegan and very dairy free alfredo sauce. And while I understand the irony of talking about “faux” alfredo sauces and then calling my sauce an alfredo sauce…I am imperfect…and so I chose to title it a dairy free alfredo sauce.
Late last week, I set out to create a pasta dish for myself full garlic, heat and veggies. I was fighting a nasty cold/flu and needed to get rid of it by stuffing myself with pasta, veggies and garlic power…because FYI, viruses are terrified of garlic.
I looked through the fridge and gathered up my pre made alfredo sauce onions, garlic, peppers and lemons. I grabbed some red pepper flakes from the pantry and found my eye being drawn to some cajun spice. I was not sure why…perhaps it was my feverish delirium but I felt cajun spice was a necessity in this dish.
It did not take long for the kitchen to smell of savory onions and garlic with smoky notes of cajun spices. My hands wildly took over and without even thinking in 10 minutes I had an incredible deliciously creamy pasta. LOADED with veggies, creaminess and heat!
Here is a neat little trick that makes this go even faster.. IF you use FRESH pasta as I do in the video (WAIT VIDEO?!? Just scroll down to the bottom and check out my video!!!!) … you can cook the pasta ALL IN ONE POT. That’s right…no boiling necessary just add the pasta in with the sauce and about 2 cups of water….and in one minute it is perfection!
How good is this dish you ask? It is good enough that when I gave it to the hubs to take to work for his co-workers they did not believe him that this was a healthy dish made with zero dairy or cheese and secretly loaded with veggies.
Mass…you would be proud.
OH and if you don’t believe me that is ridiculously easy…just watch my VIDEO!!!!! WOHOO
I hosted a Facebook LIVE with my friend Marlena from Love That Spice, a local spice shop by me and we used her Cajun spice. Let me tell you, that is POTENT..in a very good way. It just made me a believer that spices need to come from a reputable source because they are just that much better!
- 1 batch of my vegan dairy free alfredo sauce
- 1red onion, sliced
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- 1 tsp of red chili flakes (or more if you like things spicy)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced on a microplane
- 3 tbsp of cajun spice
- 1 cup of white wine
- 4 scallions chopped thinly
- zest of one lemon
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 8 oz of dry or fresh pasta, penne, fettucini, spaghetti, orechetti, anything will work
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
- In a large skillet or pot, add the olive oil, onions, peppers and red chili flakes. Cook over medium high heat until they start caramelizing nicely. About 7-10 minutes.
- Add in garlic, ½ of the chopped scallions and cajun spice. Combine so that everything is evenly mixed.
- At this point if using regular dry pasta go ahead and drop it into your boiling water.
- Add in the white wine and scrape, scrape, scrape the bottom of the pan. This is called deglazing, you want all those golden brown bits to come up and flavor your sauce.
- Allow the wine to reduce by half.
- If using fresh pasta, go ahead and boil it now.
- Add in the vegan dairy free alfredo sauce and lemon zest.
- Add in pasta and about 1 cup of pasta water.*
- Combine everything and give it a quick toss.
- Add remaining scallions as a garnish and serve immediately with more cajun spice and red chili flakes on the side.
2. Your pasta water has starch in it from the pasta and it binds your sauce beautifully. It is the best trick that Italian grandmothers know!
3. Here is a neat little trick that makes this go even faster.. IF you use FRESH pasta as I do in the video... you can cook the pasta ALL IN ONE POT. That's right...no boiling necessary just add the pasta in with the sauce and about 2 cups of water....and in one minute it is perfection!