During the week I work 10-hour days, and by the time I get home, I’m exhausted…and Al is famished. So I’m always on the lookout for quick, easy recipes that require basic, inexpensive ingredients. Plain ‘ol spaghetti and corn? No thanks! Soup and bread again? Nahhh… We need something more exotic. How about creamy, vegan, vegetable alfredo on whole wheat penne? Sound good? It tastes amazing! And best of all, you can whip it up in a jiffy and have a gourmet dinner on a slim budget.
Creamy, flavorful, and bursting with colorful vegetables, this alfredo is a great twist on traditional pasta. There are no added fats or oils except what is naturally in the tofu, so it’s skinny on your wallet AND your hips! And because you can add almost any vegetable, you can save money on your groceries and use up whatever has been sitting around in your fridge.
Ready to try it?
The ingredients are pretty simple and super healthy. We used whole wheat penne pasta from ALDI (on sale for $0.49 for a 13.25oz box which feeds 2 of us for 2 meals), but linguine also goes well. Silken tofu works better than regular water-packed tofu as it blends without leaving any grittiness. We find it at the Asian grocery store for $0.79 when it’s on sale.
You can add whatever vegetables you like, but my alfredo staples are onions, carrots, and peas. Then I’ll add whatever else I need to use up, from homegrown spinach picked in the garden to diced zucchini or even garbanzos, olives, or edamame! In this case, I had a leftover yellow squash, some mushrooms, and parsley from my herb garden that was growing abundantly (so I used it instead of peas). Here’s a picture of some my front porch herbs with my little parsley plant holding it’s own between the chives and mint.
This time, I also decided to add some vegechicken we had brought back from California. You could also use cubed tofu, but since your sauce is already made of a whole block of tofu, it isn’t really necessary to add more protein (Al just really loves this vegechicken!).
Start by cutting up all your vegetables and having them ready.
I then blend up the tofu, water, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, vegetarian chicken seasoning, and cornstarch. Since silken tofu doesn’t take much blending to become smooth, you’ll just need to blend it 20-30 seconds. If you’re out of tofu, you can use 1 cup raw cashews or 1 cup coconut milk instead, but I like tofu better because it’s cheaper, lower fat, and has a very neutral flavor. If you do use something like cashews or regular water-packed tofu, you’ll need to blend it longer, usually a full minute on high in the Vita-Mix for water-packed tofu, and 2 minutes for cashews.
Tip: You can start heating your water to boil your pasta right now while you cook your vegetables to save time.
Using a deep pan or wok, cook your vegetables in a little water. I usually put in the onions and carrots first since they take longer to cook and then add the others in order of cooking time (in this case, the squash came next and the mushrooms and parsley right at the end). Cook until soft, but not mushy.
Then pour in your alfredo sauce. Add the second batch of water to clean out all that yummy creamy goodness. (We don’t want to waste crumbs OR any drops!)
Let it come to a low boil so that the corn starch thickens. I don’t like it too thick since it can thicken too much once it cools and is mixed with the pasta. Usually mine is around the consistency of a runny tomato soup. This is when I add the quick cooking things like mushrooms and vegechicken. I could have added the parsley here too, but decided to keep it as garnish.
Meanwhile, get your water boiling and boil your pasta according to directions. We like to add about a tablespoon of salt to the water so the flavor between the noodles and sauce is more balanced. Once they’re cooked, rinse the noodles with cold water to prevent them from sticking and overcooking. If they sit in your colander for a while and start sticking together, no problem! Just run more cold water over them and they’ll separate nicely.
Dish out your pasta onto a plate, ladle some alfredo and vegetables over it, and garnish. Or you can pour your noodles into your alfredo sauce pan and mix everything together. Just don’t mix them all together unless you know you have a balanced amount of noodles compared to sauce.
Voila! A delicious, healthy, and gourmet meal that will make even an amateur look like a pro! The whole wheat pasta is much more filling than non-whole wheat pasta and the sauce’s balance of seasonings gets the flavor just right that it’s so lip-smacking delicious you’ll want to lick the leftover sauce right off your empty plate!
And here’s the best part. All that lip-smacking yumminess is yours for pennies! Well, may quarters, but that’s still better than going to Olive Garden. Here are the approximate costs (it’ll vary depending on what you end up putting in it and how much you buy them for, but this will at least give you an idea).
Here’s to gourmet food that is scrumptious and affordable!