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Perfecting cream-less pasta sauce

December 19th, 2008 | 11 Comments »

In getting used to living without dairy in my diet, I have found some easy loopholes for my own personal use of casein. Most everyone lacks the enzyme in their body to digest cows milk protein, or casein, but many people simply don’t recognize any discomfort, or equate it with consumption of milk products.  I do not have an allergy to dairy as many people quickly assume; when I eat dairy products I just get a very bad stomach ache as I’ve now been able to recognize that I can’t digest the protein in cows milk. A dairy allergy is when the body can go into shock upon consumption of dairy, or an anaphylactic reaction. My friend Angela has this. For me, it isn’t that dangerous, it’s just uncomfortable. But as I learn to manage this in my daily eats, I have found some interesting outcomes. I cannot consume any milk product made from mass-produced, factory raised cows. Period. A slice or two of supermarket cheese and I am in agony. A blob of sour cream has the same outcome and lets not even talk about cream or milk. Pizza has sadly disappeared from my menu, although sometimes I am willing to suffer for a slice or two, popping a Lactaid to help. But….and here’s the interesting part….. I can consume high quality cheeses, artisan style products that are made from small batches of humanely raised cows, grass fed cows, or pastured animals. These products do not affect me. Top quality yogurts that are chock full of beneficial flora also do not bother me. For these reasons, you will still see some dishes on the blog that contain cheese. I can still eat cheese, it’s just pricier for me to do so and that doesn’t bother me.

But…..back to cream-less pasta sauce.

One aspect of eating dairy free, obviously, is avoiding milk at all costs and thankfully it’s really easy these days as most outside sources such as restaurants, coffee shops and the like will offer a dairy-free alternative,  but when I look at a restaurant menu and see pasta after pasta dish with cream sauces and the lone dairy free alternative is red sauce, that ain’t making me want to skip for joy. So I was thrilled upon opening a menu at one of my favorite little bistros to find a cream-less alfredo sauce on the menu. My friend Joanna and I pounced on it as we were splitting an entree that night along with our half-price bottle of wine. I do love a good alfredo, but with the heavy cream and butter, the calories and fat are astounding and now that most milk makes my insides implode, alfredo is definitely off the list.

This ‘alfredo’ dish, however,  was made with pureed cauliflower, and although it did have cheese in it, it was an artisan style cheese that my stomach can tolerate. And it was divine. With my first mouthful I swore to recreate this at home.

My first attempt, surprisingly, was pretty good.


Nothing like the wan light of winter to make a food look so unappetizing! But then again, how do you photograph pasta to make it look good at all?

If you’ve ever used cauliflower as a sub for mashed potatoes then you can grasp the concept of this ‘sauce’ made from pureed cauliflower. Cooked until very tender, the cauliflower is placed in a food processor with some of the cooking liquid and processed until smooth. Cheese, salt and pepper is stirred into it, then it is mixed with cooked pasta. I also added in broiled roma tomato for some color and extra nutrition.


The first attempt was pretty good, but more cheese would have added to the flavor and I had thought my fridge held more than it did. It also needed a little more seasoning with the salt and pepper but overall was a really good first try. I think that a handful of chopped kalamata olives would have really sealed the deal. Be sure to cook the cauliflower until it’s pretty tender as it helps to make a very smooth ‘sauce’ once processed.

Cream-less Alfredo Sauce

One medium head cauliflower, washed and sectioned
1/2-3/4 c. top quality shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Steam cauliflower until very tender, reserve cooking liquid. Spoon cooked cauliflower into food processor and add about a half cup of liquid. Process until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Pour back into saucepan and add cheese, stirring to melt. Season with salt and pepper and adjust to taste, adding more cheese or S&P if needed. Asiago, or romano cheese can also be used to add more flavor to the sauce.

11 responses to “Perfecting cream-less pasta sauce”

  1. That is interesting that you can handle products made from naturally-raised cows. Have you ever tried drinking milk from grass-fed cows? I know it’s hard to come by, but I can’t imagine not having a glass of milk with my cookies.

  2. doniree says:

    Of course I give YOU credit! I just meant that the inspiration for the REST of what I added came from YOUR mention of kalamata olives 🙂

  3. bobbi says:

    I have never heard of that kind of butter, will have to get some. I am with you on having everything clean I am about to get dirty myself:)

  4. bobbi says:

    ok so I cant have alfredo sauce because it hurts my tummy I cant wait to try this!

  5. […] stuff. My amazing cook (and in general) friend Kate posted on her awesome foodie blog today about cream-less alfredo sauce, made from a base of steamed and pureed cauliflower. Now, I’ve heard of this for a mashed […]

  6. […] totally inspired me with this recipe, but I took it and ran with it Donifying it enough that I came up with a dish that completely […]

  7. kate says:

    doni, let’s hope you at least give some of the credit to ME

  8. doniree says:

    OMG your cauli-fredo sauce just made my night. i doni-fied it a little, but whoa amazing. om nom nom. don’t worry, i’ll blog it. I give most of the credit to the kalamata olives and I don’t typically like them all that much.

  9. Robin says:

    Isn’t cauliflower just the most wonderful tool for going cream-less. I don’t have a dairy allergy, but use it all the time in place for cream to make things healthier. So glad you enjoyed your first pasta attempt and I look forward to seeing you play around with it!

  10. Shannon says:

    Hi, Kate: I think the worst part of lactose intolerance is giving up ice cream. Cream sauces, eh — I can live without them.

    It may help to know that yogurt with live bacteria are usually safe to eat because the bacteria will eat the lactose. I often find that eating some plain yogurt helps when I am feeling discomfort. Yogurt makes a good substitute for sour cream in many recipes.

    Also, the longer a cheese is aged, the less lactose it contains. So firm, well-aged cheeses like cheddars and parmesan will be probably be fine for you to eat. Whew. As are those artisanal cheeses you’ve been trying. Better to eat a little of a good cheese than a lot of bad one, is my motto.

    Good luck!