Traveling every month can make my life a bit hectic! And honestly the most annoying thing is having to clear out my fridge before I go. What ingredients was I dealt with this time? Half a small container of milk, remnants of a bunch of cilantro, half a head of sprouting garlic... Ugh, not the best combination. Digging through my pantry I found half a pound of spaghetti and thought “Maybe I’ll somehow marry the three together and come up with something?”. And that I did. I ended up with a delightful cilantro spaghetti alfredo.
I wanted to branch out from doing another pesto or pistou. What about a simple cream sauce? I could whip up an easy béchamel in no time, perhaps blend the cilantro and garlic for a pistou base? No, that would be one step too many and time was not on my side that day. I decided to go by the alfredo route for maximum flavour with spikes of cilantro along the way.
Now, what is the difference between a béchamel and an alfredo sauce? The former is a white sauce. Bechamel is thickened with a roux and forms the basis of main different cheese sauces – alfredo, mornay, macaroni and cheese – you name it! Alfredo, on the other hand, is a cheese sauce studded with garlic, parmesan and traditionally, parsley.
In this recipe, I swapped the parsley out with cilantro with wondrous results. Really, a simple dish that can be whipped up for a quick and easy dinner or, in my case, needing to clear out that fridge before leaving the country. What can I say? It certainly hit the spot!
CILANTRO SPAGHETTI ALFREDO – serves 2 – 4
½ lb spaghetti
¼ cup pasta water
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ head garlic cloves, minced finely
2 cups whole milk
½ cup parmesan cheese
½ bunch cilantro, finely chopped
salt + pepper, to taste
Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to packaged directions, about 6 minutes. Reserve ¼ cup of pasta water and drain the cooked pasta. Set aside.
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour until it forms a paste. Slowly dribble in the milk until the mixture thickens slightly. Add in the garlic and continue whisking until the sauce thickens to your liking. Slowly whisk in the cheese, fold in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper.
Toss the alfredo sauce with the spaghetti and service with additional cilantro leaves and lots of freshly ground black pepper.