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Modified Alfredo sauce help!

I typically use a standard mix of rue, chicken stock, cream and Parm.

My boyfriend can't eat chicken stock or cream. Oh, or whole milk. Medically-induced dietary issues, there are a lot of things he can't eat. :-/

I'm trying to figure out how to get the creamy Alfredo texture without the above. I'm making Alfredo lasagna, so I want the sauce to be a little thicker. I'm thinking of mixing in some fat-free plain yogurt to make up for the watery skim milk, but not sure how to balance out the taste.

Any advice or ideas? I'm trying to get it in the general vicinity of right the first time.

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  1. I wouldn't use yogurt. Way too strong of a taste, and it won't bake well. I'd Google around for recipes using silken tofu. I found a few that vary, so wouldn't want to recommend a specific one, but if you look you might find one to your tastes. I don't know if you could fool him really if you just did fettuccine alfredo, but with other flavors going on in a lasagna, it might just work.

    2 Replies
    1. re: katecm

      He can't eat tofu. No vegetables. He's a tough one to cook for.

      I may try cream cheese....you're right about the yogurt.

      1. re: RebeccaJM

        I think that's a good solution, just thin it down enough and it should suffice.

    2. traditional alfredo sauce does not start with roux, but is he able to have flour and butter? you could make a roux to thicken the skim milk.

      can he have ricotta cheese? it's closer to fresh cheese, much like cream cheese, but without that tang. it also will bake well in a lasagna.

      i'd also advise skipping the yogurt. it will weep and be too sour for this application.

      2 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        He can have ricotta. I hadn't considered mixing that in with the sauce (was going to put that with the meat - how my kids like it). That would probably work even better.

        Flour/butter is a yes. Like a said, he's hard to cook for. It's usually meat + plain starch + some kind of cheese. Wheat product/potato/rice. Beef or pork. Ugh! I wouldn't be so particular for him if it was just a matter of food pickiness, but most foods result in stomach pain/vomiting for him. He said he lived on cereal/granola bars and Gatorade before I started cooking for him.

        1. re: RebeccaJM

          can't you sub vegetable stock for the chicken stock? then the only remaining issue is the cream, and you can use low fat or fat free evaporated milk instead.

      2. Basic Alfredo doesn't use chicken stock, cream or milk, just butter and Parmigiano Reggiano, so there shouldn't be a problem, no?

        1 Reply
        1. re: escondido123

          Eh, it's a recipe I've been using for years that my kids love. I know it's not basic or "traditional" but it's what I know. :P

        2. Alfredo sauce is of non-Italian origin. It's butter and parmesan, nothing else. That won't do for a lasagna. I don't think you can do this successfully. I can't understand why Parmesan would be okay if cream, roux, and whole milk are not. Not anything I'd want to eat personally, but you could make a meatless lasagna using mushrooms and other chunky vegetables in your tomato sauce, and soft tofu instead of cheese.
          Nutritional yeast flakes have a slightly cheesy taste.

          19 Replies
          1. re: greygarious

            I agree--it's hard to make suggestions when we don't know what he can have. Why butter and cream cheese but not milk or cream? It seems pretty random. Is there a difference between skim milk or whole milk in a bechamel if it's butter based (in terms of ingredients)? If creme fraiche is okay, you could thin that with milk (or skim milk) and cheese, too.

            1. re: chowser

              Sorry, I'm new to Chow and didn't realize the comment thread collapsed. I posted above in response to hotoynoodle what he can eat.

              (And no, it doesn't make a darn bit of sense. I've been trying to 5 months to figure it out LOL!)

              1. re: RebeccaJM

                I did see that and it was helpful. I wasn't sure, as other things like creme fraiche would work. It's apparently not fat that bothers him since butter, cream cheese, are fine but whole milk is not. There's no difference in my mind between skim milk with butter and whole milk so it's confusing. There are recipes for creme fraiche sauce which might work.

                1. re: chowser

                  Yeah I can't figure out what it is. I thought the same thing. I think it's something that gets separated out of the cream during churning - he's fine with skim, fine with butter, but a no go on straight cream or whole milk. Maybe it's the bacteria in the "buttermilk". Honestly, no idea. I've been slowly developing a mental chart of types of foods he can eat, because the cow + potato/bread bit got old real fast!

            2. re: greygarious

              This is new to me, and I'm having no luck finding a reference for this:
              "Alfredo sauce is of non-Italian origin."

              Do you have a reference that I could go to? It seems that there is a legend of its origin at a Roman restauant, and then, it never really existed but for what we American's know it as, which does not exist in Italy.
              Oy! My head hurts.

                1. re: becks1

                  And I read those links to say the name "Alfredo" came from a restaurant in Rome and it was based upon dishes of butter and cheese from around Italy. How is that non-Italian?

                  1. re: escondido123

                    I think the difference is what Americans typically refer to as "Alfredo Sauce" is exactly as the OP describes. Not based on anything Italian at all...just a white, creamy, cheesy sauce for pasta. Basically a white sauce with parm.

                    1. re: sedimental

                      It seems as if this Americanization (or bastardization) of the butter and Parm with pasta recipe came with the addition of cream, which was cheaper than butter.
                      So, it's very interesting.

                      1. re: monavano

                        But just because a dish has been bastardized doesn't mean there isn't an original dish or am I missing something? It says this guy, Italian, made it for his wife, also Italian....so where is the non-Italian? Heavens knows there are all sorts of bastardizations of Beef Stroganoff, but that doesn't mean Beef Stronganoff is non-Russian.

                        1. re: escondido123

                          I also do not see how what I know as Alfredo sauce is so removed from its Italian origins that it's no Italian. I just add cream.
                          I can see the argument that it's not, I'm just not there.
                          The way I see it, I think spaghetti and meatballs are very popular in Italy, just not served together. Doesn't make my combined dish not of Italian origins.

                        2. re: monavano

                          One story I've heard -- no idea if it is true -- was that we add cream because our butter is different than Italian butter, perhaps has less milk solids remaining or something, and as such won't be as creamy as the pure Italian Butter and Cheese version is if we don't supplement with cream.

                          May be apocryphal.

                          When I bought into the whole low-fat, high-carb hysteria, I used to make the sauce as above, with a roux and milk and a tiny bit of Parm, but now I go the other way: my current Alfredo is just reduced 40% cream and lots of Parm (or Pecorino).

                        3. re: sedimental

                          So, you base your statement on the assertion that most Americans not only do not know the origins of this sauce (just butter and cheese) but that Americans generalize the term Alfredo to include any cheesy sauce?
                          I can see that argument based on chain restaurants and jarred sauces. If that's the case, then yes, that does not exsist in Italy and no one named Alfredo had a national dish named after him, like Queen Margherita.

                          1. re: monavano

                            "you base your statement on the assertion that most Americans not only do not know the origins of this sauce"...

                            Yes. That is exactly what I meant. I believe that most Americans believe that "Alfredo Sauce" is a white sauce with Parmesan cheese (not "any" cheesy sauce). They would also tell you that SAID sauce is "Italian" in origin. I think this a common perception. Not everyone is interested in the origins of foods or authenticity, etc.

                            1. re: sedimental

                              Thanks. I've been learning a lot today.

                              As an aside, DH and I took a cruise around the Mediterranean and did a day trip in Rome/Vatican City where our lunch was fettuccini Alfredo. A big-ass, creamy bowl of it and I loved it.
                              Then again, I wasn't the food geek that I am today. Rome=Alfredo? No clue!

                              1. re: monavano

                                Yes, but it was likely made just with tons of butter and parm (no cream). When made correctly, you would think it must have cream in it but the "richness" comes from the freshness and starch from the pasta combined with the butter and cheese. Heaven!

                                  1. re: sedimental

                                    It may have also had some of the starchy pasta water.

                      2. re: monavano

                        Non-Italian in the sense that it was created to give non-adventurous American tourists something akin to mac&cheese, which was familiar to them. This was in the days before McDonald's opened outposts in big cities around the world. I've heard this for many years, just in the last few days on some PBS cooking show, but I can't recall which one.

                    2. My question: if he can't have the stuff that you use to make your "alfredo" sauce, then why try and make an imitation? Have it when he's not there. Why not try other foods?
                      If he can have ricotta, then go with dishes that utilize that.
                      Kind of like when my in-laws went on a diet and still had gelatin and pudding and soda, but all with artificial sweetener. Made more sense to switch to different foods. (They weren't successful at their "diet.").

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: wyogal

                        Because he can't have the cream. The last time I made a cream-based sauce (it was for potatoes, in that case, but similar idea) he had a really bad time of it.

                        I just made a heavier roux to thicken the skim milk and used extra Parm. It came out watery than I would have cared for, bit figure it will all work out in the baking. Tastes OK.

                        1. re: RebeccaJM

                          My point, is if he can't have cream, or has other dietary issues with milk, then why make a food that is an imitation of that? Why not go for a different food, instead of "fake" whatever or "imitation" or "substitute" something. Like, make a tomato based sauce, or something with pumpkin/squash, and forget making an alfredo-like dish.
                          For example: mac-n-cheese for someone that eats no dairy or gluten. Do I bust my hump to make an imitation of that? or would I serve a fabulous brown rice dish instead? Some folks may want that imitation, but personally, I see no reason to insist on making foods "like" ones that a person can't or chooses not to eat in the first place.
                          (By the way, the suggestion for using cashews is a great idea.)

                          1. re: wyogal

                            Well, it's mostly for my and my kids' sanity, to be honest. He'd be OK eating steak and potatoes every time, but we like a little variety. And when my kids say, I want [whatever food] and he's over for the evening,, it's easier to modify it so he can eat it as well, rather than make two separate dishes. See what I mean?

                            In general, I agree with your philosophy. I used to do gluten-free and just avoided foods that typically contain gluten. The GF imitations never tasted as good as the original.

                      2. One of my friends is vegan, and she makes a mean "alfredo" sauce with cashews. It's really good! You could modify it by adding cheese to it to give it a little extra something. I don't know how it would do in a lasagna though.

                        I don't have a recipe from here, but this is a good place to start:


                        2 Replies
                        1. re: NicoleJones

                          Yeah, I was thinking that one of the non-dairy milks might be useful in this case, like the soy milk or coconut milk creamers. (Note: the latter is not the same as the traditional coconut milk or coconut cream that has a strong coconut flavor.) I've heard cashew milk is fabulous, but I haven't tried it myself. Although it's hard to know what the OP's boyfriend is reacting to, so maybe these subs would be problematic.

                          1. re: NicoleJones

                            I have used Soy milk in a bechamel and it came out great.

                            1. Just an update to all who helped out with ideas.

                              I ended up making a thick roux, 2 cups of skim milk and a scant cup grated parm. Let that percolate for a while until it was reduced, then mixed it with the ricotta and ground beef to bulk a bit more. Proceed to lay with lasagna.

                              Yeah, OK, this was a monstrosity of an "alfredo lasagna" but...hey...the kids say it tastes good so I'm going to consider this an undeserved win.

                              1. I get that the Alfredo Lasagne is somewhat like lasagne with a Béchamel sauce or white sauce. While I can steer you to experiment without the cream, I am perplexed about the 'baking' component of the lasagne. Let us know if any of these are workable for your lasagne.
                                - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                                We do this first recipe with egg noodles tossed with sauce and mushrooms:
                                Alfredo Noodles
                                8 oz. broad egg noodles, cooked and drained
                                Mix together:
                                1/4 cup ricotta
                                1/4 cup plain yogurt
                                1/4 cup grated Parmesan
                                1 Tablespoon margarine or butter
                                1/4 teaspoon grated fresh black pepper
                                Toss with hot, drained noodles.
                                Optional: add 1-1/2 cups of sauteed sliced mushrooms or cook one onion, sliced with one clove of garlic, sliced: cook until softened for 5 minutes and add to sauce with noodles.
                                - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                                This is a White Sauce:
                                2 cups hot water
                                1/2 cup raw cashews
                                2 Tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
                                2 teaspoons onion powder
                                1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
                                In a blender: blend cashews with one cup of hot water until smooth. Add the remaining cup of hot water with the onion powder, cornstarch, and salt and blend until smooth. Pour into saucepan and heat to a simmer until thickened, stirring constantly. For a thicker sauce, add more cornstarch dissolved in cold water and cook to the desired consistency.

                                add 1/2 Tablespoon of nutritional food yeast flakes or "Chicken-Like Seasoning" and 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
                                - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                                Alfredo Sauce
                                1 package (10.5 ounces) lite silken tofu
                                1/2 cup soy milk or water
                                2 Tablespoons tahini
                                1 Tablespoon soy sauce
                                1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
                                1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
                                1/2 teaspoon onion powder
                                freshly ground black pepper to taste
                                Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender and process until smooth.
                                Pour into saucepan and heat for 5 minutes - do not allow to boil.
                                Serve on pasta, cooked, drained, and hot. Sprinkle with soy Parmesan cheese. Serves 4
                                - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                                Chicken-Like Seasoning is sold under several brands:
                                Here's a homemade version:
                                1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
                                2 Tablespoons Flavacol
                                2 Tablespoons onion powder
                                1 teaspoon garlic powder
                                2 Tablespoons sugar or fructose
                                Mix together and store in airtight container.
                                Note: Flavacol is a brand name for butter salt and can be found with the popcorn salt on grocery shelves or restaurant supply stores.
                                Butler Foods, McKay's or Bill's Best make chicken-flavor seasoning without animal fat at health food stores.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Cynsa

                                  try this Cashew cream fettuccine Alfredo with sautéed spinach and cheese crisps (gluten-free)


                                2. Well, if all you are Are there any hard grating cheese he can eat (Parmigiano, Pecorino, aged Asiago, aged Gouda, et cet.)? If so, all you need to do is have finely grated cheese, salt the pasta water well, use somewhat less water than you think and, when the pasta is nearly done cooking, spoon the starchy pasta cooking water into the cheese, just enough to melt it. If you wish to add butter to this, go ahead. Using less water to cook the pasta makes the pasta cooking water starchier, and this, combined with the heat of the water, helps maintain an emulsion.

                                  The other approach is to add egg yolks (you need to temper them), as they contain lecithin, an emulsifier.

                                  You may now realize that the first approach is the classic Cacio e Pepe approach (if you add pepper, of course, and skip the butter) and the second approach is the classic Carbonara approach (ditto on the pepper). Neither involve any dairy other than hard grating cheese.

                                  There's no need for roux. It's much simpler than that.