Athletes require a variety of protein sources to maintain and repair muscle structure as well as provide the energy supply needed for muscle endurance. Vegetarian athletes often turn to soy based proteins since these are notably high in protein. However, soy has gotten a lot of negative press for its effects on hormones, particularly for women. This is especially true if it becomes one of the main sources of protein in their diet. For this reason, many vegetarians choose to consume a soy-free diet or significantly reduce their soy intake.
Avoiding soy is reasonably simple but making a creamy sauce that is high in protein is difficult without the addition of blended tofu for that smooth texture. Using traditional dairy cream, though it is a protein source, typically doesn’t result in a high protein dish. Another protein star, nuts, are the perfect solution. Making a creamy sauce by using a puree of cashew nuts makes this dish protein rich when paired with a lentil pasta. The nuttiness of the cashews partners incredibly well with a touch of saltiness from parmesan cheese. A touch of extra protein is provided by spinach and rich tasting sundried tomatoes which gives this meal a well-rounded dose of protein power for vegetarian eaters without using soy.
Vegetarian Protein Alfredo
Calories 510, Protein 30g, Carbs 56g, Fat 20g
Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 20 minutes
- 1 1/4 cups raw cashews
- Water for soaking cashews
- 1 3/4- 2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups raw spinach, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 package (8 oz) lentil penne or rotini
- Place cashews in a bowl. Cover cashews with water and soak about 2 hours. Do not soak longer or the texture gets watery instead of creamy.
- Drain cashews and rinse well.
- Place cashews in a blender. Add broth or water, garlic, and salt then blend until very smooth and creamy.
- Add additional water if you want it to be a thinner sauce.
- Heat a saucepan with water and cook noodles until al dente.
- While noodles are cooking, heat a sauté pan with a small amount of olive oil and add the spinach and tomatoes.
- Stir cook the spinach until it is wilted. Turn off the heat until ready to serve.
- When noodles are done, drain and dish onto plates or bowls.
- Stir cashew sauce into the spinach and tomatoes. Note this sauce will thicken rapidly if it is heated so be ready to serve it immediately or thin it out further if desired. This sauce it totally delish served at room temperature or barely warmed, as well.
- Top noodles with the cashew spinach sauce and sprinkle with parmesan.
Note: You can make this vegan by omitting the parmesan. Protein content is then reduced to 27g per serving.