My roommate asked for carbonara and my imagination started to run wild. It also happens that my husband loves carbonara. Basically, it’s a heavy cream sauce with fried bacon bits or pancetta with whole eggs beaten into it. Well, that’s not vegan. That’s where I come in.
What I decided to go with was a heavy cauliflower cream sauce with fried smoked tofu and king oyster mushrooms. If you want to leave the smoked tofu out and sub more diced mushrooms and a little liquid smoke, you’re going to end up in a good place. This is a warm, filling comfort food. It’s creamy, with a bit of crunch and chew. It has seriously earthy undertones and is simple to prepare. It’s also deceptively light. If you’ve never tried a cauliflower cream sauce, you are in for a major treat. It has the texture of a heavy cream sauce, without any of the unpleasant associations of the dairy one. This came together in less than a half an hour. If you want to go ahead and make this into spaghetti a la carbonara, that’ll work, too!
Tofu and Mushroom Pancetta
1 tablespoon olive oil
100 g smoked tofu, diced
1 king oyster mushroom, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Pinch of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the diced smoked tofu and sautee until it begins to get crispy, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic and spices and sautee, making sure not to burn the garlic for several minutes, until the mushrooms have released their water and have browned slightly. Take off heat and set aside.
Cauliflower Cream Sauce
Half a large head of cauliflower, chopped into florets and steamed
2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk, your choice (I like both rice and soy)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of dried thyme
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Once the cauliflower has been steamed to fork tender, set aside to let cool. In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour into the skillet you fried your mushrooms and tofu in and whisk over medium heat, reducing to your desired thickness.
350 g cooked gluten-free penne
Green onion and thyme, for garnish
Add the al dente pasta to the pan with the cauliflower cream sauce. Add the fried tofu and mushrooms. Stir to combine. Serve with steamed green vegetables and a slice of fresh lemon. Marvel at the cream sauce you just made from hardly more than the magical vegetable cauliflower.