Creamy Alfredo with Spiced Meatballs & Crispy Artichoke Hearts

I have a lot of respect for broccoli's blonde cousin, cauliflower. In the last few year I've found that cauliflower has an impressive repretoire of uses, from dip-vehical to cream-ifier. These days, having a head of cauliflower in the fridge leaves me in a constant state of debate. What will it be this time? Crispy florets tossed in nutritional yeast and roasted until golden? Shredded into rice and used in a grain-free tabbouleh? Blended with garlic, thyme and butter to make creamy mashers? Trying to find the perfect home for a head of cauliflower is one of my favorite problems. At this point, I'm not even sure what I like more: mulling over the possibilties or finally eating a the end result.

In fact, now that I think about it, neither of those take the cake. It's the forming and shaping of a recipe, the taste testing, and the creating that really gets me going. It's easy, while mixing and matching and measuring, to get lost in the kitchen and forget everything else. A creative trance takes over until the food is created. Cauliflower "Alfredo" Sauce has always been once of those "trance" recipes where I just go and hardly remember what went in.

Blended cauliflower is surprisingly creamy, which is why it makes for such a good non-dairy Alfredo substitute. On one of my trips to the local bookstore (during which I take the fastest route to the food magazines, fill my arms with the current month's issues, and settle in to a good seat while flipping through each magazine, stopping at only the most eye-catching recipes) I learned that cauliflower contains high levels of pectin, which is why it thickens liquids and takes a creamy texture when pureed.  

Swirled into strings of spiralized zucchini, cauliflower becomes almost italian. Meatballs become the perfect tool for scooping extra sauce out of the bottom of a bowl and delivering that sauce to your mouth. The crispy artichoke hearts probably would work well for that too, but I wouldn't know--I ate all of them before I even got to the sauce!

This recipe is part of the Real Food Wednesday Roundup. See more great real food on Kelly the Kitchen Kop's blog!

 

Creamy Alfredo with Spiced Meatballs & Crispy Artichoke Hearts

Alfredo Sauce:

2 cups cauliflower florets

2 garlic cloves

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/4 cup broth

Spiced Meatballs:

1 pound ground beef

1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 white onion, minced

Salt and pepper

For the artichokes: 

1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained, quartered

1 tablespoon avocado oil

For the Zucchini Pasta: 

1 large zucchini

water

pinch salt

 

1. Prepare the meatballs. Put a skillet over medium heat and drop a tablespoon of coconut oil in. While the oil heats, combine the beef, spiced, onion, and garlic in a bowl and use your hands to mash it all together until well incorporated.  Roll the mixture into 1 to 2 inch spheres. Add the spheres to the hot skillet, so that they do not touch each other. You may need to do this in tow batches. Once the meatballs have browned on one side, flip them and brown the other side. Continue until all sides are evenly browned and meatballs are cooked through. Once they are cooked, turn off the heat. I leave them in the pan, covered, to keep them warm while I prepare the rest of the dish.

2. While the meatballs are cooking, place the cauliflower florets in a steam basket and place the basket in a pot with about one inch of water in it. Place the pot on the stove over medium heat, and cover it.

3. Prepare the artichokes. Toss the artichokes in the avocado oil and spread out on a baking sheet. Place on top rack of oven and turn oven to Broil. Keep an eye on them, as food can go from crispy to burn very quickly under the broiler. Once they are browning on the edges, remove them from the oven.

4. Use a spiralizer to shred the zucchini (see note). Steam the zucchini quickly in a steam basket for five minutes.

5. While the zucchini steams, check the cauliflower. It should be soft by now. Place the cauliflower along with the other ingredients in the sauce in a high powered blender and blend until smooth. 

6. Assemble the pasta.  Toss the zucchini with a pinch of salt, stir in the sauce, and top with artichoke and meatballs. Serve hot!

Note: I use this spiralizer, and recommend it. If you do not own a spiralizer, you can try cutting the zucchini into thin strings by hand (with a knife). I used to do it this way- it works but takes a lot of patience, and the "noodles" do not come out as long

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