Sustainable Alfredo

Ever since I was a child, pasta has always been my favorite food. It is extremely versatile,Image result for carbon footprint shrimp as there are hundreds of different dishes that can be made with pasta. I love all types of pasta from red sauce to white sauce to butter and garlic sauce to anything else in between. With such a variety in types of pastas, sauces, proteins, and vegetables that can be mixed and matched to create countless dishes, how is one to ever decide on a favorite? From the numerous dishes that have been made for me growing up, I have found that my favorite has always been the classic Alfredo pasta.

This enticing meal typically combines chopped chicken breast, asparagus, and Penne pasta, though any type would suffice. But, this childhood favorite would be nothing without my mom’s delicious Alfredo sauce recipe. Though just a typical Alfredo recipe, there is always something special about a homemade meal cooked by your parents. The sauce creates a captivating interaction of sour cream, Parmesan cheese, butter, onions, mushrooms, peas, peppers (red or green), garlic, and salt and ground black pepper. Though a family favorite, there are a few aspects of this dish that are not exactly the most environmentally friendly.

Wendell Barry emphasizes the idea that sustainable progress needs to be sought for and achieved individually, on the personal level in society, as he says, “For most of the history of this country our motto… has been think big. I have come to believe that a better 

Image result for penne broccoli alfredo

motto… is think little” (80). To expand on the concept of sustainability on the individual scale, Barry describes it as “The citizen who is willing to think little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on his own, is already solving the problem” (80). Various changes could be made to tweak the recipe to become more sustainable environmentally while not sacrificing the taste and integrity of the Alfredo.

The ingredient that is obviously the largest inhibitor to creating a more sustainable dish is the protein. I have decided to switch from the classic chicken that typically goes with Alfredo to shrimp which is locally produced, utilizing less energy in transportation. Though shrimp is normally more expensive than chicken, the extraImage result for sprouts market few dollars spent will be well worth contributing to lessening the dish’s carbon footprint, and who knows, perhaps the price increase will balance out in the other changes. Another simple substitute would be to switch to a whole wheat or multigrain pasta, helping the Alfredo to become more sustainable for both the environment and yourself. A study, which was published in the International Journal of Lifecycle Assessment states that the carbon footprint of whole grain products are 6-7% lower than it’s normal counterparts. This is credited to the fact that around 25% of the grain is thrown away during the production of normal, “white” grain products. The last major change that I will be making to my mom’s Alfredo is substituting broccoli for the asparagus. Though they seem like normal healthy vegetables to compliment most dishes, they are vastly different in terms of their environmental impact. Broccoli requires nearly 8 times less water to produce, as it requires 34 gallons of water per pound, compared to the astounding 258 gallons of water needed per pound of asparagus. On top of the environmental sustainability that is being achieved, broccoli is also a much more economically sustainable decision, as it is a less expensive alternative to asparagus.                                                                                                           

 

When purchasing the ingredients, I visited a local store: Sprouts Farmers Market. Here, most proteins are organic or grass fed and locally sourced. The produce used for the sauce, 

Image result for fresh produce

as well as the broccoli, are all fresh, healthy, and locally grown. As if all of these healthy and sustainable options aren’t already unbelievable, they are also fairly priced with equivalent products that are sold at larger chains like Kroger or Publix due to the constant deals and sales. It astounds me that more people don’t shop at this gem that is hidden within many suburban neighborhoods. Throughout this process, I was able to make my mom’s homemade Alfredo into a more sustainable, yet still delicious meal in almost all aspects without changing the integrity of the dish and without a substantial, if any, increase in price. If everyone could take Barry’s advice to Think Little and just do some simple research about potential substitutes, they will find that they are able to produce delicious, more environmentally sustainable, and typically healthier dishes, usually with little to no increase in the overall price.

CHICKEN AND ASPARAGUS ALFREDO

Original Ingredients

Alfredo Sauce:

  • 1/2 stick of Butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • Pinch of Black Pepper
  • 3 finely chopped Garlic Cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped Onion
  • 1/2 package of Mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 box of peas
  • 1/4 cup chopped Red or Green Pepper

Also,

  • 1 box Penne Pasta
  • 1 “bundle” of asparagus
  • 3 large chicken breasts
  • Red pepper flakes

Original Directions

Alfredo Sauce

  1. Saute vegetables in butter and garlic (1st onions, then peppers and mushrooms, then peas)
  2. Melt butter in pan over low heat
  3. Add cheese and sour cream and whisk together until sauce has thickened and is smooth
  4. Add black pepper to taste
  5. Mix cooked chicken breast and asparagus into sauce
  6. Season with red pepper flakes to taste

Chicken Breast

  1. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic
  2. Cook on grill, oven, or stove (depending on preference)
  3. Slice into bite sized chunks

Asparagus

  1. Put olive oil in pan
  2. Put asparagus in pan
  3. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic
  4. Slice into bite sized chunks

SHRIMP AND BROCCOLI ALFREDO

Revised Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick of Butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • Pinch of Black Pepper
  • 3 finely chopped Garlic Cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped Onion
  • 1/2 package of Mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 box of Peas
  • 1/4 cup chopped Red or Green Pepper

Also,

  • 1 box whole wheat Penne Pasta
  • 1-1 1/2 heads of Broccolli
  • 1 1/2 lbs Shrimp
  • Red pepper flakes

Revised Directions

Alfredo Sauce

  1. Saute vegetables in butter and garlic (1st onions, then peppers and mushrooms, then peas)
  2. Melt butter in pan over low heat
  3. Add cheese and sour cream and whisk together until sauce has thickened and is smooth
  4. Add black pepper to taste
  5. Mix cooked shrimp and broccoli into sauce
  6. Season with red pepper flakes to taste

Shrimp

  1. Clean/remove shells from all shrimp
  2. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Put butter and sliced garlic into pan on low heat
  4. Place shrimp into pan and cook each side
  5. Remove from heat and slice in half (if needed)

Broccoli

  1. Cut off of head into bite sized pieces
  2. Put butter into pan
  3. Steam broccoli

WORKS CITED

Berry, Wendell. (1972). A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural. New York, NY: Harcourt.

Breyer, Melissa. “8 Easy Food Swaps That Help the Planet.” TreeHugger, Treehugger, 7 Mar. 2018, www.treehugger.com/green-food/8-easy-food-swaps-help-planet.html.

Cowan, Shannon. “Eco-Impact of Wild Seafood Less than That of Poultry, Beef.” Eartheasy Guides & Articles, learn.eartheasy.com/articles/eco-impact-of-wild-seafood-less-than-that-of-poultry-beef/.

“Tread Lighter with Whole Grain.” Alginate | Stabilizing, Thickening or Gelling Agent for Food – DuPont | Danisco, www.danisco.com/food-beverages/bakery/the-sustainability-issue/tread-lighter-with-whole-grain/.

 

 

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