Let me be completely honest.
Most nights, dinner consists of whatever Jeremy and I can quickly throw together for the kids and then a slightly more adult, slightly more put together meal for the two of us after the kids are in bed. (I listen with great skepticism to any and all claims from parents of multiple toddlers that the entire family routinely sits down together to eat for longer than thirty seconds before someone needs a spoon/throws a tantrum/spills a drink/is done eating.) We actually have much more luck sitting down as a family when we eat out. I imagine said “luck” has everything to do with the fact that we are not the ones cooking/cleaning up/getting spare spoons from the kitchen. The novelty of being in a different place also helps.
But every once in a while, I pull off a home cooked meal where everyone enjoys the food long enough that we are all able to sit down together for a bit *and* the kitchen is not an absolute disaster afterward. It’s even better when said home cooked meal has some nutritional value. Enter vegan fettuccine alfredo sauce (known in our house as “creamy sauce”).
One of the products I discovered when I became vegan and came to the realization that I would need to become intimately familiar with a whole new slew of products if I wanted my new diet to last (some eleven years ago) is nutritional yeast. Unlike tofu and other similar vegan ingredients, it has a very distinctive taste and so shouldn’t go into anything and everything, but its somewhat cheesy, nutty flavor is a nice complement to many a dish. And, as its name implies, it is packed with folic acid and B vitamins (including B12, an important one for vegans). Because of its high vitamin concentration, I’ve shied away from giving it to the kids until they are almost a year old, and then only in smallish doses to start, but it’s perfect for sprinkling over veggies like you would Parmesan cheese (and yours truly loves it on popcorn). It is also a key ingredient in the vegan fettucine alfredo recipe we use from Alicia Simpson’s cookbook Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food.
Simpson provides two recipes for fettucine alfredo sauce, a quick one and one designed for when you have a bit more time to cook. I’ve tried both and while the more involved sauce (which is still pretty darn easy) is excellent, it is also pretty devoid of nutritional value. It relies on margarine, soy creamer, and vegan cream cheese, which are great at imitating the taste of milk products, but don’t really bring much to the table in terms of nutrients. The quick recipe relies on silken tofu (a great source of protein and fairly good source of iron) and the aforementioned nutritional yeast. And did I mention you can make it in no time and only wind up with a few dirty dishes in the sink when you’re done? I have to admit I almost resent having to break out the cutting board to chop up the garlic when I make this. Keep in mind that this is not gourmet fare by any stretch, but it does the trick with very little effort. I would place this in the same category as good ol’ mac and cheese.
Without further ado, here is the recipe (in my own words, not Simpson’s, and doubled to make enough for one pound of pasta because I have yet to meet anyone who takes the trouble of doing all the cooking prep work to cook half a box of pasta):
1 pound of pasta (fettuccine is an obvious choice here, but my kids prefer the little miniature versions of traditional pasta shapes)
two 12.3 ounce packages of soft silken tofu
1 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 garlic cloves, chopped
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook the pasta. If you like, throw in some broccoli or frozen peas or whatever veggies you have on hand for the last couple of minutes before draining everything in a colander. Put the remaining ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour the sauce into the pot you used to cook the pasta and heat until warm. Throw the pasta and veggies back into the pot and toss before serving. (You could also spoon the pasta and veggies onto each plate and ladle the sauce over them, as Simpson suggests.) Sprinkle some extra salt and freshly ground pepper and/or a little extra nutritional yeast on top as garnish if you like. Add a side of apple sauce or apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon for the kids (and, in our house, for the grown-ups) and dinner is served.
Quinn–that’s the kid wearing the sauce in the photo above–gives this one a big thumbs up. He’s also putting the wrong end of his fork in his mouth, so perhaps you’ll just need to try it yourself. (And for the record, yes, that is a fleck of a broccoli floret on the bridge of his nose. What can I say? The kid likes his broccoli.)