Oprah Winfrey's Chef Shared The Secret To Creamy Pasta Without Cream

Creamy pasta sauce is easy to achieve when you actually have cream. But what about when you're all out, or just don't want the sauce to be too heavy? Most people opt for similar options like milk or half and half, but those who are vegan or lactose intolerant have to get pretty creative. You'd think that plant-based milks like almond milk or soy milk would substitute well, but because the protein, sugar, and fat contents are completely different from that of cow's milk, they don't thicken as well. Even a high fat plant-based milk such as coconut milk still requires the help of a cornstarch slurry in order to thicken a pasta sauce.

Using blended avocado or silken tofu therefore is a solid option, but these foods aren't ones that most of us always have on hand. Luckily, Oprah Winfrey's chef shared a more accessible and effective approach to making creamy pasta using an ingredient you probably already have in your pantry.

Oprah Winfrey's chef uses oatmeal to make pasta creamy

One of Oprah Winfrey's favorite foods is a dish normally made with cream — lemon pasta with peas and mushrooms. However, as she shared in a recent video on Oprah Daily, she actively tries to eat food with "the least amount of [Weight Watchers] points or calories possible." That of course means nixing the cream in her favorite pasta.

To make her lemon pasta creamy sans the dairy, her chef, Philippe Chevalier, uses the cooking water strained from making oatmeal. In the video, Chevalier shows Winfrey how he cooks oats in boiling water, then reserves the liquid for her pasta. When combined with a bouillon cube, some olive oil, parmesan, and other pasta ingredients, the results are so creamy that Oprah says she remembers being suspicious when Chevalier made it for her for the first time. "Remember? I didn't believe there was no cream," she recounted to Chevalier," I wanted to see that there was no cream in it."

Why does oatmeal make pasta creamy?

Oprah Winfrey may have been surprised at how well her chef was able to make pasta creamy without using any cream, but the method he used isn't entirely new. If you've ever made cacio e pepe or authentic Alfredo, you know that it's possible to achieve a sauce that gets creamy without using any actual cream. Though some Alfredo recipes do call for cream, traditional versions are only made with three ingredients: butter, parmesan, and most importantly, reserved pasta water. Cacio e pepe, made with black pepper and Pecorino Romano, also gets much of its creaminess from the leftover cooking liquid.

The reason it works is due to the fact that when you boil pasta, the starches leech into the water. This starch in the water acts as a thickener and emulsifier, replacing the need for any cream. Winfrey's chef technically could have used the pasta water, but the water from cooked oats is not only starchier, it's also more gelatinous because oats are 50% to 60% starch. This makes it the perfect alternative for cream in any pasta dish.