It's hard to beat the level of comfort provided by a pasta dish that's coated in a heavy cream sauce, like fettuccine Alfredo or penne alla vodka. That kind of dish is really more of a once-in-a-while meal for some, or not an option for others depending on their dietary choices, but that doesn't mean creamy pasta dishes can't be on the weekly roster.
There are plenty of ways to make a creamy sauce without using heavy cream that result in a comforting choice any night of the week. Here are seven great swap-ins.
Why Cream Tastes So Good
Heavy cream is a mainstay in so many comfort food dishes, and for good reason. It gives anything it touches a rich, luscious mouthfeel and mellows any super-strong flavors to result in something that's completely crowd-pleasing. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives that do the same thing if you're looking to lose the cream.
1. Reach for yogurt.
Yogurt may seem like an odd addition to your bowl of pasta, but seeing as it's practically as creamy as cream, it's a smart choice. The tang of yogurt also provides a nice balance of flavor, which you don't get from cream. Opt for whole-milk Greek yogurt for the best results and just stir in a couple dollops right before serving.
Get a recipe: Roasted Balsamic Pasta with Mint & Yogurt
2. Blend in avocado.
Reaching for an avocado or two is an incredible way to make a creamy vegan sauce for pasta. Simply blend it with some herbs, garlic, and olive oil and you've got something that's a bit like pesto in flavor but ridiculously creamy without any dairy whatsoever.
Get a recipe: How To Make Creamy Avocado Pasta
3. Grab coconut milk.
If you're looking for a vegan alternative that's even closer to heavy cream, open a can of coconut milk. The stuff that makes your favorite Thai curry rich and creamy can make a pasta sauce that's equally so. It also lends a touch of nutty sweetness to things.
Get a recipe: Creamy Greens & Coconut Linguine from Foodess
4. Make a cheesy cauliflower sauce.
Puréed cauliflower is the key to building an Alfredo-like pasta sauce that's not completely loaded with cream and cheese. A few handfuls of cheese whisked into the smooth veggie base helps mimic the classic.
Get a recipe: Cauliflower Cheese Sauce
5. Embrace silken tofu.
Silken tofu is another vegan alternative to cream. When blended, it's almost a dead ringer for dairy and has a good deal of protein in it. Just be sure to season it well with salt, pepper, and aromatics — just like other varieties of tofu, it has a very neutral flavor.
Get a recipe: Creamy Mushroom Linguine from Discover Delicious
6. Cook it like risotto.
When you make risotto, you continuously stir the rice as it cooks so it absorbs the broth and releases its own natural starch to create something creamy and comforting. You can apply the same technique to small-shaped pasta like orzo, ditalini, and elbows.
Get a recipe: Creamy Corn and Basil Orzotto
7. Stir in ricotta.
Whole-milk ricotta makes for a creamy pasta that's lighter than one made with cream, but is equally rich-tasting. The small curds lend a little bit of texture to the final dish — all you really need to do is stir it into hot pasta to create an instant sauce.
Get a recipe: Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil