I grew up in a small town without much in the way of fine dining. So it was a real treat when we made the 30-minute trip to the next city over and enjoyed a family dinner at Olive Garden. Back in 2012, when internet foodie snobs ridiculed an octogenarian food critic from North Dakota for her genuinely thoughtful review of the town's new Olive Garden, I thought, why are they being so mean? For millions of Americans, including my family, Olive Garden was fine dining.
Since leaving my hometown, I've had the privilege of living in urban centers and major cities that offer a limitless variety of cuisines, so I don't frequent Olive Garden these days. But it continues to hold fond memories for me. Like stuffing my face with pasta and unlimited breadsticks while my family did the same thing. I almost always ordered the fettuccine alfredo or the pasta primavera (which was essentially pasta with alfredo sauce and a few vegetables sprinkled in for good measure). This was, luckily, before restaurants were required to publish nutrition information, before I knew that an Olive Garden entrée of fettuccine alfredo had well over the daily recommended amount of saturated fat.
As I grew out of my teenage years and my taste buds evolved, however, I lost my taste for alfredo. It was too rich and heavy for me to enjoy more than a few bites and it felt so one-dimensional: cream, cream, cream and nothing else.
When I became vegan, however, I had a strong desire to veganize all kinds of comfort foods, from pizza and grilled cheese to chocolate cake and even fettuccine alfredo. Luckily, plant-based alfredo is less rich and heavy than dairy-based alfredo, making it a dish I can actually eat a bowlful of without feeling sick.
Many vegan alfredo recipes are cashew or nut-based, so I thought I would make a nut-free version to make it more allergen-friendly (be sure to use a nut-free mylk, such as soy milk or oat milk).
To give a little more dimension to this ordinarily one-note dish, I add roasted cherry tomatoes for a juicy bite, along with lemon zest and fresh basil for a bright finish. If you want to make this a balanced meal, toss in some cooked cannellini beans or garbanzo beans at the end. Or, to make it a little healthier, you can always use whole wheat pasta or a bean-based pasta. Finally, while it is traditional to use fettuccine noodles with alfredo sauce, my local market was sold out of them so I used linguine noodles with equally delicious results.
This recipe is as simple as it is comforting, so I'll leave it that! Hope you try it out and if you make it, be sure to tag me on Instagram!
Creamy Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 cup vegan butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine (can substitute vegetable broth, but I love the flavor the wine adds)
4 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 cup unsweetened, plain nondairy milk (unsweetened soy or oat milk for nut-free)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 - 1 teaspoon kosher salt (depending on your taste)
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
8 ounces fettuccine or linguine
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
1 small lemon, zested
1/2 cup vegan parmesan cheese
Optional garnishes: vegan ricotta cheese, crushed red pepper flakes, chopped parsley
Heat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
Lightly toss the cherry tomatoes with the olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Spread the tomatoes out in a single layer on a baking tray or cookie sheet and roast in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and shriveled. Sprinkle coarse sea salt on the roasted tomatoes.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook the fettuccine or linguine noodles according to the package instructions. Once cooked, drain the noodles. If needed, toss the noodles with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.
While the tomatoes and pasta are cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the vegan butter, and once melted, add the onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently
Add the white wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the wine is mostly evaporated and the smell of alcohol has dissipated.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the arrowroot powder, whisking constantly for 1 minute. Gradually add both the canned coconut milk and nondairy milk, about 1/3 of a cup at a time. Cook the mixture for 2-3 minutes, whisking almost constantly.
Add the nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and turn off the heat. Transfer the mixture to a blender and purée until the sauce is smooth.
Return the alfredo sauce to the skillet and add the cooked fettuccine or linguine, tossing to coat. Add in the roasted tomatoes, basil, and vegan parmesan cheese until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Garnish as desired.