Food + Wine

Coconut Cream Pasta Sauce


I know what you’re thinking.
‘Coconut on pasta?!  Ew. No thank you.’
But listen- I want to assure you that this pasta sauce does not taste like coconut milk tossed with noodles. No, no, no. It’s more than that. I’m just using the coconut milk in place of heavy cream to make a pasta cream sauce that I can feel good about eating. This sauce is a healthy replacement for what we Americans call ‘Alfredo’. (The true Alfredo sauce, for Italians, isn’t made with cream at all- just butter and parmesan cheese.)

I don’t gravitate towards cream sauces because they’re so incredibly unhealthy. I know how many calories and saturated fat grams are in such things and I just don’t find any pleasure in consuming them. I also don’t think you can make a decent cream sauce using a light milk so I decided to use coconut milk, which is incredibly rich and thick, as the base for this pasta sauce. But this sauce is not vegan- there is still parmesan cheese involved- it’s just a better for you (still rich as hell) creamy pasta sauce.
And there’s not a thing wrong with that in my opinion.
*Coconut Cream Pasta Sauce
-Heat a medium saucepan on medium-low with a splash of canola or olive oil.
-Sweat out 1 large shallot, minced for a couple minutes and then add 4 large cloves of garlic, minced. Season with kosher salt and fresh black pepper. 
-Once the shallots are translucent and the garlic is fragrant, add 1 (13.5 oz) can of full fat coconut milk and one parmesan rind. Season with a few more pinches of kosher salt and fresh black pepper along with a bit of fresh nutmeg. 
-Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the milk mixture to a simmer.
-Cover and simmer gently on low for at least 30 minutes, but an hour provides more deep parmesan flavor to the milk.
-Add in 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes, 1 cup (packed) grated Parmigiano Reggiano (if you don’t have the real parm, I do not recommend domestic- for a cheaper option use asiago or Romano.), and the zest of 1 large lemon. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
-Remove and discard parmesan rind. Toss with 12 ounces of your favorite pasta. (Reserve about 1 cup of the starchy, salty pasta cooking liquid and add a little if you think your noodles aren’t coated enough.) Squeeze a little of your lemon over each plate and top with fresh, chopped parsley.
-You can add sliced, cooked chicken, shrimp or scallops to this to round out your meal…I also love to add wilted spinach or peas as well.
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  • Reply Ines July 10, 2014 at 9:36 am


    With reference of your article, I have the pleasure to tell you the history of my grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, who is the creator of “fettuccine all’Alfredo” in 1908 (and not in 1914) in the “trattoria” run by his mother Angelina in Rome, Piazza Rosa (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi).
    More specifically, as is well known to many people who love the “fettuccine all’Alfredo", this famous dish in the world was invented by Alfredo Di Lelio concerned about the lack of appetite of his wife Ines, who was pregnant with my father Armando (born February 26, 1908).
    Alfredo di Lelio opened his restaurant “Alfredo” in 1914 in Rome and in 1943, during the war, he sold the restaurant to others outside his family.
    In 1950 Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 "Il Vero Alfredo" (“Alfredo di Roma”), whose fame in the world has been strengthened by his nephew Alfredo and that now managed by his nephew Ines, with the famous “gold cutlery” (fork and spoon gold) donated in 1927 by two well-known American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (in gratitude for the hospitality).
    See also the website of “Il Vero Alfredo” (which also contains news about franchising).

    I must clarify that other restaurants "Alfredo" in Rome do not belong to the family tradition of "Il Vero Alfredo – Alfredo di Roma" in Rome.
    I inform you that the restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo –Alfredo di Roma” is in the registry of “Historic Shops of Excellence” of the City of Rome Capitale.
    Best regards Ines Di Lelio

  • Reply Terri December 5, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    I just discovered your site. This recipe sounds delicious! I’m looking forward to trying it soon. 🙂

    • Reply Everyday Champagne December 6, 2017 at 5:43 am

      Hey thanks so much Terri! You’re making me want to revisit this old recipe ;-). Have a great day and thanks again!

  • Reply Shinika August 20, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    Will give a try for dinner tonight. Thx

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