In my quest for more and more healthy, plant-based recipes I've come across many let's say...inventive, recipes. Ones that are a little too creative for my tastebuds. But every now and again a recipe or technique just seems to weird NOT to try out. One such technique is the use of nuts to make creamy sauces or dressings. I've seen a few of these recipes in vegan and vegetarian cookbooks but have always pushed them aside with the though of "nuts are nuts and they do not magically become creamy." Oh how wrong I was!
I recently saw this pine nut and walnut alfredo sauce and finally was too intrigued not to try it. I have to say, it was awesome! Processing the nuts and adding hot water (or other liquid) makes the nuts turn into a creamy sauce! I'm not kidding. It's probably one of the coolest techniques I've seen out there. Since this creamy nut discovery I've tried a bunch of other similar recipes. Each time...the same creamy, thick consistency. The sauces and salad dressing could fake out even the most pickiest of eaters.
In addition the "cool" factor and awesome taste of these recipes, you can't really beat the nutrition factor of nuts. Now some of you may automatically comment on the fact that nuts are high in fat. And you're right, they are. About 80% of a nut is fat. But it's the heart healthy omega-3 fats and the mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. These are the guys that may help to keep your arteries nice and flexible, help prevent blood clots and heart attacks and lower that LDL or "bad" cholesterol level. Plus nuts have a good amount of fiber (not a commonly known fact), Vitamin E (a natural antioxidant) and plant sterols (also helps lower that bad cholesterol).
Now compared to regular cream based sauces and dressings, these nut based recipes definitely have the upper hand in nutrition. Heavy cream, full fat cheese and butter are all frequent fliers in the traditional creamy sauces. Yes they have lots of flavor in addition to enough saturated fat to last you a few days and a good chunk of cholesterol. Lots of cholesterol and saturated fat? Well they're known for raising your bad cholesterol and putting you at higher risk for stroke, heart attack and heart disease. Not good. So switching to these nut based sauces might not be such a crazy idea.
Now in all these heart healthy nut based sauces there is a common theme. Which makes it nice and easy for any personal modifications you may want to make. You start with the nuts. Add them to a food processor and grind them until they resemble a pesto-like consistency. At this point you add whatever spices, herbs or other flavorings you want. Then with the food processor running, slowly add super hot liquid, and watch the magic begin. The hot liquid begins to emulsify with the nuts and the whole thing becomes a thick and fluffy cream sauce. Once finished, dish up with your favorite pasta, steamed veggies or chips!
I've listed some nut based sauces for you below and even came up with my own alfredo sauce (recipe below). All are delicious. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!
Nut Based Sauce Recipes:
- Almond Romesco Sauce - from the NY times
- White Cheese Sauce - from Eat Your Veggies Blog
- Red Lava Dressing - from The Blissful Chef Blog
- Traditional Pesto Sauce - Food Network
Walnut Alfredo Sauce: (pictured above)
- 1 cup plain walnuts
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
- Lemon juice - from 1/2 a lemon
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup very hot water
- In a food processor add half of the walnuts and garlic clove. Process until nuts and garlic are very finely chopped.
- Add the rest of the walnuts, rosemary, salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Process until mixture has the consistency of pesto.
- With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the hot water through the feed tube. The sauce should start to become thick and creamy white. Stop every now again to check the consistency. You may not need all of the water - it depends on how thick you like your alfredo sauce.
- Toss over hot pasta or keep in a tupperware in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- If you refrigerate this sauce it will thicken and you may need to mix in some hot pasta water or plain hot water before tossing it with the pasta.
Maria E Tadic is the author of: Blog: http://beanafoodie.com
More from food