This creamy sauce is rich, satisfying and flavorful. Full of subtle herbs that marry beautifully with summer vegetables, it is the right dish to serve when you know you should eat lots of vegetables, yet still crave something sinful (like a rich, creamy Alfredo sauce). It’s the best of both worlds. I created this dish many years ago when I was a guest at Dr. McDougall’s Celebrity Chef event in Santa Rosa, California. It was an honor cooking on stage for an audience of seventy health-conscious attendees and going on stage after Erik Tucker, Executive Chef of Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco.
Although I created this dish years ago, my family still enjoys it today. It feels elegant, yet it’s quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal. Play around with the vegetables in this dish. Use whatever is in season. Vary the herbs, use fresh herbs if you have them on hand and have fun with it. Once you make this dish once, you’ll know how to make a low-fat vegan cream sauce, so have fun experimenting.
- ½ cup raw cashews, soaked in 2 cups spring or filtered water for 4-8 hours (if you’re using a Vitamix or other high-powered blender, there is no need to soak the nuts)
- 1½ cups diced yellow squash, steamed until tender (about 5 minutes)
- 1 tablespoon dried herbs de Provence
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- A few grinds of black pepper
- 1 cup filtered or spring water
- Pasta and Vegetables:
- ½ pound whole wheat fettuccine
- 1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach
- 1 carrot, cut into julienne
- 1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, julienne
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1 small yellow squash, cut into julienne
- 1 small zucchini, cut into julienne
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
- Start water boiling for linguine in a large pot. Drain cashews, dump into blender and puree with cooked yellow squash and 1 cup water until very smooth and creamy. This may take 5 full minutes in a standard blender. As soon as mixture is smooth and creamy, add herbs de Provence, sea salt and pepper and blend for just a second. You want to see some flecks of herbs, so don’t over blend.
- Boil fettuccine according to package directions. Add broccoli to the water for the last minute of cooking.
- Meanwhile, sauté carrots in 1-2 tablespoons water in a large non-stick skillet over high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms, bell peppers, yellow squash, zucchini and garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add spinach and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and add sauce to skillet. Stir and warm through for 1-2 minutes.
- Drain fettuccine and broccoli and toss with sauce and vegetable mixture. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Facts: This recipe, like all my whole foods, plant-based recipes, is based on just one of the principles which help us easily maintain a healthy weight: calorie-density.
Calorie-density, also known as energy density, is defined as the amount of energy per unit weight of food or beverage (kilocalories per gram). Water accounts for much of the variability in energy density because it provides a significant amount of weight without adding energy (calories). Dietary fiber also contributes weight but few calories. Thus, foods high in water and fiber are generally lower in calorie density. The main exception is sweetened beverages, which although high in water, are also high in sugar; thus more calorically dense.[i] Foods high in fat are on the opposite end of the spectrum – high in energy density. Calorie density is important because we tend to eat the same quantity, weight or volume of food each day.
Therefore, we can lose weight and increase health, without cutting portions or going hungry, by adding water and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to our diets. This pasta does just that by creating a rich cream sauce, free of calorie-dense heavy cream and based instead on nutrient-rich cashews and calorie-light yellow squash. Mixing whole grain pasta, rich in fiber, with water and fiber-filled vegetables is another delicious way to reduce calories while increasing nutrients to increase satiety.
Anytime you make pasta, think about choosing a whole grain variety and mixing it half and half with vegetables, both for better health and for a weight control.
Recipe by Emily Honeycutt, 2016. © All Rights Reserved. www.emilyhoneycutt.com
[i] R Pérez-Escamilla, J E Obbagy, J M Altman, E V Essery, M M McGrane, Y P Wong, J M Spahn, C L Williams. Dietary energy density and body weight in adults and children: a systematic review. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 May;112(5):671-84.