February 11, 2013

Lightened-Up Cheese Sauce

Last week, I had friends over for dinner. We all love pasta & one of them suggested we have a cheese sauce. Because cheese sauce can be very heavy & highly calorie, I decided to lighten it up.  

As I was considering what to use for creamy texture, I thought of white beans. They provide such a creamy texture to bean dips (like white bean hummus) that I thought they'd be perfect. Since I had a feeling my friends would be skeptical (one of them doesn't like beans!), I made the sauce before they came & had them taste it. Both thought it was tasty & cheesy. They were surprised when I told them it didn't have any cheese in it at all. After that, I did add a bit of parmesan, but if you are dairy-free or vegan, this recipe doesn't need it. It's still cheese-like without it.

I hope you'll think outside the box & try this recipe. It's full of flavor & much healthier than traditional cheese sauces. Beans not only add creaminess, but also fiber, protein, & numerous nutrients. It's win-win! Comfort food at its best.

Lightened-Up Cheese Sauce
Coats 1 lb. pasta

1 tsp. coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 small onion, chopped
1.5 c cooked white beans (or 1 can, rinsed)
4-5 cloves of roasted garlic*
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 c unsweetened original almond milk
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2-3/4 tsp. salt (to taste)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2-4 T freshly grated parmesan cheese (omit or use nutritional yeast to make vegan)

In a medium saucepan, melt coconut oil & saute onion over medium heat. Once soft, about 3-5 minutes, add white beans, garlic, mustard & almond milk. Heat until it just starts to simmer. Turn off heat. Using an immersion blender, puree sauce until smooth. (Alternately, you can pour the sauce into a blender & blend. Allow to cool slightly before blending to prevent any explosions!) Turn burner back to low & gently heat sauce. Add Italian seasoning, salt to taste, black pepper, & parmesan cheese. Keep warm until ready to use. If your sauce cooks too long, it may get too thick. Add another 1/4-1/2 c almond milk to thin.

*To roast garlic: Preheat oven to 350*F. Slice off the top of the garlic heads, to expose the tops of the cloves. Wrap each head seperately in aluminum foil & drizzle each head with 1/2 tsp. of olive oil. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until garlic is soft. Squeeze cloves out of the husks. Roasted garlic can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Another great use for roasted garlic is my Roasted Garlic & Kale Spread. Roast several cloves at once to make sure you have plenty - it never seems to go to waste in our house!


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