If you are following a paleo or grain-free diet, you have probably come across many recipes that try to make vegetables into grain substitutes. Especially cauliflower and zucchini. I have many right here on my blog… such as zucchini noodle lasagna, cauliflower rice or cauliflower mashed ‘potatoes’ (wow, I don’t have this one yet – coming soon!)
Well, this recipe uses BOTH. And, it uses cauliflower to do something it has rarely done before, be sauce! And to my surprise, it did a really good job! Even my husband was fooled. At the end of the meal he said “well, anything with a cheese-based sauce is of course going to be good.” When I told him the sauce was mostly cauliflower, his jaw dropped.
I did use peccorino romano cheese in my sauce, and it gave it a cheesy flavor, but it was hardly the base of the sauce so you can easily omit it for a completely paleo meal.
One other variation to this recipe is the chicken. The original recipe I found called for marinating, searing and baking chicken breasts. I did this the second time I made it and it was so good. The first time I made it though (when I took these pictures) I used roasted, shredded chicken, so I just added some herbs and balsamic vinegar to it when I heated it up and put it right into the sauce. It was really tasty too, so you could do it either way.
Also, I cut the squash with a mandolin so it would be like fettuchini. I have this one and use it all the time. You could do it with a spiral cutter or even a knife.
Here’s the recipe. I have listed the steps in the order that I think flows best. It would be a good idea to read all the way through them first so that you have an idea of when you want to do what and if you want to do it differently than I have done. You can prep the chicken and the zucchini (step 1 and 2) in the morning and the rest later. You could also make the sauce (step 4, 7 and 8) ahead of time and store in the fridge or the freezer.
Cauliflower Alfredo on Zucchini Fettuchini
original recipe from Primally Inspired
4 chicken breasts
2 lbs medium sized zucchini squash
2 Tb olive oil
2 Tb balsamic vinegar
2 Tb fresh basil (or 2 tsp dried)
1 Tb fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
3 cloves garlic, minced
head of cauliflower
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese (omit for paleo)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl, rub over chicken and allow to sit in the fridge for at least an hour and up to a day – it is worth the time!
2. Slice up zucchini into strips with a mandolin or spirals with a spiral slicer or simply cut up with a knife.
3. Place zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with salt and toss to disperse salt throughout. Put colander over a bowl or the sink so that excess water can drain out (you can leave it for just 30 minutes or all day, tossing occasionally).
4. Cut up cauliflower into florets and put into a large pot with 2 inches of water at the bottom. Turn heat on medium high and cover allowing water to boil and steam the cauliflower for 20 minutes or until very, very tender.
5. Meanwhile, cook the chicken. Heat the oven to 350′ and heat a skillet over medium heat.
6. Brown the chicken in the skillet, a couple minutes per side then put the skillet in the oven (or the chicken into a baking dish and into the oven) and let it cook through. This should take 20-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the breasts.
Alternatively, especially if your chicken is not so thick, you can cook through on the stovetop. This cuts out the oven step but may result in drier chicken.
7. While the chicken is in the oven, prepare the sauce. Heat 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan and fry 8 cloves of minced garlic in it, just a few minutes until fragrant.
8. When the cauliflower is very tender, remove with a slotted spoon into a blender or food processor, add chicken stock, garlic butter and cheese (if using) and blend until it is a creamy consistency. Mix in salt and pepper until it tastes great. Set aside.
9. Now, take your colander of zucchini and shake out any more water that has accumulated before pouring the zucchini onto a tea towel. Wrap the towel around the zucchini and squeeze out any more water you can (this will keep your final product from being too soupy)
10. Heat 1 Tb butter in a large skillet and add zucchini. Cook stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes until it reaches desired doneness.
11. Time to eat! Cut your chicken into strips and put on a plate with a pile of zucchini. Top with a heaping spoonful of sauce and serve!
Alternatively, Mix sauce, chicken and zucchini in a large pot and serve straight from there (like the photo at the very top of the post).