Almost any pasta qualifies as comfort food in my book. Give it a rich creamy sauce and plenty of cheese and we're talking heaven. The problem is creamy, cheesy pasta dishes are tough on the waistline. Pasta on its own has plenty of calories-about 180 calories in a 2-ounce serving. Add a creamy sauce and you've just created a calorie bomb. Not to mention that those creamy sauces are normally full of saturated fat. (It's best to keep sat. fat to a minimum for a healthy heart.)
The good news is that there are ways to "fix" creamy pasta dishes. And that's just what we did with fettuccine Alfredo. Here are the changes we made:
- Swap whole-wheat pasta for regular pasta to increase fiber.
- Cut out heavy cream and butter to reduce calories and saturated fat.
- Instead make a creamy sauce with broth, thickened with cornstarch and reduced-fat sour cream.
- Add thinly sliced zucchini to add nutrients and bulk up the dish with minimal calories.
- Use plenty of Parmesan cheese since that's where a lot of the good flavor comes from!
See our healthier version of fettuccine Alfredo below.
Here's our healthier version, a quick dinner for two:
Active time: 30 minutes | Total: 35 minutes
Alfredo di Lello, the Roman restaurateur who created his signature sauce in the 1920s, might be startled to find this streamlined version that still tastes rich enough to satisfy those deep creamy-pasta cravings. The addition of zucchini boosts the nutritional profile. And when cut into thin strands, it can be twirled gracefully on a fork.
3/4 cup vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
4 ounces whole-wheat fettuccine
1 small zucchini, cut into matchsticks
2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Combine broth and garlic cloves in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the garlic cloves are soft, about 15 minutes.
2. After the garlic has simmered about 10 minutes, cook fettuccine in the boiling water, stirring often, for 8 minutes. Drop in zucchini and cook until the fettuccine is just tender, about 1 minute more.
3. Meanwhile, transfer the garlic and broth to a blender. Process until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. (Use caution when blending hot liquids.) Return the mixture to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add cornstarch mixture; whisk it until slightly thickened, about 15 seconds. Remove from the heat and whisk in sour cream, nutmeg and pepper. Return the pot to very low heat to keep the sauce warm. (Do not boil.)
4. Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl. Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan; toss to coat well. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately, passing the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan separately.
Makes 2 servings, 1 1/2 cups each.
Per serving: 379 calories; 11 g fat (6 g sat, 3 g mono); 33 mg cholesterol; 52 g carbohydrate; 21 g protein; 8 g fiber; 628 mg sodium; 326 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Calcium (40% daily value), Vitamin C (25% dv), Vitamin A & Zinc (20% dv), Magnesium (18% dv).
By Jessie Price
EatingWell food editor Jessie Price's professional background in food started when she worked in restaurant kitchens in the summers during college. She started out testing recipes for EatingWell and then joined the staff here full-time in 2004 when she moved to Vermont from San Francisco.
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