Fettuccine Alfredo with Peas (Lite)

It’s been a rainy day here and I was needing a little comfort food.  I’m also trying to drop a few pounds and comfort food doesn’t always fit when you’re trying to make your jeans fit better.  Cooking Light to the rescue.  There’s a section in the magazine where they take a high calorie, high fat (and very yummy) dish and make a lighter version.  That section might be called “Lighten Up.”  If it’s not, it should be.  Anyway, many thanks to the food geniuses at Cooking Light for coming up with this version of alfredo.

At the farmers’ market I bought some fresh fettuccine from Bombolini pasta and some peas from Walnut Hills Farm.  The perfect delivery system for alfredo sauce.  This fettuccine, some spinach and some squid ink, is almost too delicate for this sauce.  Almost. You could absolutely use dried pasta.  It might work a little better.  And you could use frozen peas (not canned – eewww), but the fresh ones make the dish a little more special.  I added the peas and the pasta to the boiling water at the same time.  Two minutes later both were ready.  If you’re using dried pasta it will take a little longer so hold the peas out until the last 2 minutes or you’ll have peas of the gross and mushy variety.  If you’ve been trying to get your kids to eat peas this approach is worth a shot.

This is a darn good sauce for a light version.  I’m not saying you can’t tell the difference between this and the traditional version.  You definitely can.  I’m just saying that for the fat and calorie savings you might decide that it’s a trade worth making.  The white sauce that you use for the base takes a little longer to come together than other versions because it only has 1 tablespoon each of butter and flour.  It takes the full eight minutes to thicken so don’t try to shorten that part.  My other piece of advice is to have everything chopped, measured and sitting close by before you ever start.  You really do have to whisk constantly to keep the sauce from burning or getting lumpy.  I thought the sauce was a little thick so I used some of the pasta water to thin it just a touch.

The cheese gets its own paragraph.  Good parmesan cheese is not cheap.  Here’s the thing though, the pre-grated stuff you buy in the deli section of the grocery store doesn’t taste like much (and don’t get me started on the stuff in the green can) so you have to use a lot of it.  If you buy good quality cheese the flavor is so rich that you can use less of it.  The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups of parmesan.  I used about 3/4 cup and that was plenty.  The flavor was wonderful.

A little cracked black pepper to balance out the salty cheese and you have a dish you could proudly serve at a dinner party.  I could have eaten the entire pot full standing at the stove, but I guess that would have defeated the purpose of making a “lite” version.

Good? Guilt free comfort food – what’s not good about that?
Easy? Pretty easy. Just be ready to whisk and whisk and whisk.
Good for company? Absolutely, but you’ll want to keep it all for yourself.
Special shopping? Nope. You probably have everything in the house already.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Peas (Lite)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups 1% low-fat milk
3/4 C grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (neufchatel)
4 cups hot cooked fettuccine (8 ounces uncooked pasta)
1 C fresh peas
Cracked black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Directions

Boil water in a large pot. Add fresh pasta and peas. Cook 2 minutes. Drain. Keep warm.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in flour. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook 8 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Add Neufchatel cheese and Parmesan, less 2 T, stirring with a whisk until cheeses melt. Toss sauce with hot pasta and peas. Sprinkle with remaining 2 T Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and black pepper. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

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