Let me tell you how this insanely delicious, healthy cauliflower Alfredo recipe came to be. Before I do, let me say that every bite is full of big, fancy restaurant pasta energy: crispy burnt sugar kale, garlicky breadcrumbs, and caramelized cauliflower that literally melts into the most amazing Alfredo sauce. This recipe won’t cease to amaze because it’s also easily made gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and low-carb. Ok, so here’s what happened: on Zack’s birthday, he requested that I create for him a decadent, restaurant-style meal. What I came up with was in no way healthy, but it WAS hands-down the most delicious recipe I’d ever invented (birthday boy agreed). And when I posted it on my Instagram story, SO many of you asked for the recipe, I just had to make a healthy version that went all out on gourmet flavors!
This indulgent yet nutritious veggie-packed pasta is loaded with secret protein and some pretty magical lick-the-sauce-pan-clean flavors. If you’re looking for your next date night recipe, this is it! My entire philosophy around cooking, and the whole intention behind my Healthier Together cookbook, is healthy recipes that are designed to be cooked and enjoyed by two people. So grab your partner (and some matching aprons) and make this perfect healthy pasta recipe for two.
The secret protein? Hemp hearts
Hemp hearts are one of my favorite plant-based proteins to incorporate into meatless meals (2-3 tablespoons of hemp hearts have 11 grams of protein)! There’s also plenty of evidence that hemp hearts (which are also full of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals) boost digestion, reduce inflammation and risk of heart disease, and can even help ease the emotional and physical symptoms of PMS and menopause.
Here’s even more hidden health benefits linked to the ingredients inside this pasta dish:
- Kale: a leafy green, great for fighting inflammation.
- Cauliflower: a cruciferous vegetable, known for cancer and disease-fighting properties
- Garlic: an aromatic, which has been studied for reversing early heart disease
- Thyme: an herb, great for lowering blood pressure
This pasta’s fancy, but so easy to make
Just like styling a super cute outfit, really delicious pasta takes a little extra time and effort. But you all know me: EASY recipes ONLY. I promise, the little bit of extra effort it takes to make this healthy dinner is SO worth it. And it only dirties two dishes, making clean up super quick. Here’s the gist of what you’ll be doing to make the best healthy pasta recipe:
- First, make the burnt sugar crispy kale. Drizzle a pan with avocado oil and cook the kale over medium-high heat until brown. Then, you’ll toss the kale with a generous pinch of salt and coconut sugar, which will burn the second it hits the pan. Just keep tossing the kale to coat it. Then, you’ll transfer it to a plate and wipe out the pan. These crispy kale pieces will go on top of the dish a the end!
- Then, cook the pasta. Follow the instructions on your pasta package and cook in well salted water until just before al dente. Drain the pasta while they’re still firm and reserve some of the pasta water for the Alfredo sauce– it will make the consistency so silky!
- Next, make the garlicky breadcrumbs. Tear your bread into pieces and pulse them in a blender or food processor with whole garlic cloves. Once they’re nice and bread crumby, we’re going to toast them. Drizzle avocado oil onto the pan and add the breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt. Toast them over medium heat, stirring constantly, until golden. Transfer to plate and wipe out the pan.
- Then, make the caramelized cauliflower. Drizzle avocado oil in the pan and place it over medium high heat. Add the cauliflower, onion, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook until deep brown in color and add a splash of water every time brown bits get stuck to pan. Go as long as you can (at least 15 minutes!) for maximum caramelization.
- Next, make the Alfredo sauce. In a blender or food processor, combine the caramelized cauliflower and onions with hemp hearts and just enough water to create a sauce (start with 1/2 cup). Add salt to taste. Once it’s reached a thick consistency, put the sauce back in the pan over low heat. Stir in the butter and parmesan cheese to make it super decadent, or leave this part out if you want. Then, toss in the cooked pasta and just enough pasta water to create a silky sauce.
- Lastly, bring it all together. Top the Alfredo pasta with with the garlicky breadcrumbs and burnt sugar crispy kale. Garnish it with red pepper flakes and fresh thyme leaves.
Customize this healthy Cauliflower Alfredo recipe
- Make it gluten-free: Use your favorite gluten-free pasta and gluten-free sourdough bread.
- Make it dairy-free: Use non-dairy butter and parmesan or simply omit (it’s just as good without).
- Make it vegan: Use vegan butter and parmesan!
- Make it low-carb: Use zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash in place of pasta
- Adjust the spice: Amp up the spice by garnishing with more red pepper flakes or leave them out completely.
More date-night pasta recipes for two
I hope you love this cauliflower Alfredo pasta! Enjoy, and tag me if you make it on Instagram (@lizmoody)—I can’t wait to see!Print
- 4 cups of curly kale, torn into bite size pieces (about 2 leaves)
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- 4 slices of sourdough bread, stale or toasted until crunchy
- 4 whole garlic cloves
- 2 cups roughly chopped cauliflower florets (1/2 of a head)
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup hulled hemp hearts
- 1/2 cup filtered water
- 1 tablespoon pasture raised butter (optional)
- 1/2 cup shredded pasture raised Parmesan (optional)
- Fresh thyme, to garnish
- Red pepper flakes, to garnish
- Avocado oil and salt, to cook
- 2 servings pasta of choice
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle it with avocado oil. Add kale and cook it until brown, tossing a few times. Remove from heat and toss the kale with a generous pinch of salt and coconut sugar. This will burn the second it hits the pan, just keep tossing the kale to coat it. Transfer the kale to a plate and wipe out the pan.
- Follow the instructions on your pasta package and cook in well salted water until just before al dente. Drain the pasta while they’re still firm and reserve some of the pasta water for the Alfredo sauce.
- Place the torn bread into a blender or food processor with whole garlic cloves and pulse until crumby. Place the pan over medium heat and drizzle avocado oil onto it. Add the breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt. Toast them, stirring constantly, until golden. Transfer to a plate and wipe out the pan.
- Drizzle avocado oil in the pan and place it over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower, onion, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook for at least 15 minutes, until deep brown in color. Add a splash of water every time brown bits get stuck to pan.
- In a blender or food processor, combine the caramelized cauliflower and onions with hemp hearts and 1/2 cup water to create a sauce. Add salt to taste and more water as needed. Once it’s reached a thick consistency, put the sauce back in the pan over low heat. Stir in the butter and parmesan cheese to make it super decadent, if using. Then, toss in the cooked pasta and just enough pasta water to create a silky sauce.
- Add the garlicky breadcrumbs and burnt sugar crispy kale on top of the pasta. Garnish it with red pepper flakes and fresh thyme leaves. Serve and enjoy!