Tasty Thursday: Low Calorie Fettuccine Alfredo

I am a sucker for cheese. I love pretty much any cheese variety I meet. Okay...maybe not every kind, but close to it. I am not a huge fan of Kraft Singles, although they are nice and melty on a good burger. One of my favorite cheesy happy dishes is Fettuccine Alfredo. How can you go wrong with a thick and creamy cheese sauce piled on top of mounds of pasta? I don't think you can go wrong at all. I've never met an Alfredo I don't like. The Red Sox even have a player on their pitching staff named Alfredo. If I was an Italian boy, I'd absolutely want my name to be Alfredo. Enough of a tangent? Okay, back to my actual blog.

Like I was saying, I love Alfredo with pasta. Add a little grilled chicken and broccoli in it and you've got something special going on! My dilemma? It's so amazingly unhealthy for you. I make my own Alfredo sauce and there isn't a redeeming quality about it. It has four main ingredients: Heavy cream, parmesan and Romano cheese, and butter. Now, I don't know what the nutritional value of my sauce is, but I can tell you that the overall calorie content of Olive Garden's fettuccine Alfredo dish is about as bad as it gets. Each time you get one of those bad boys, you're consuming 1220 calories of pure tastiness. It also has 75 grams of fat. Needless to say, if you want an artery clogger, this is the way to go.

So how do we cut the calories and make this dish a little bit healthier? Well, the good folks at the Food Network apparently had the same idea that I did about cutting calories in dishes in 2012, because they recently had a healthy dishes weekend where all of the food was created to help people who were looking to shed some pounds/calories this year. One of the recipes? My beloved Alfredo! This is probably good news for Paula Deen. The good news for her is that today is her birthday (happy 65th!) The bad news? She has type two diabetes, and has for three years now. I guess she loved the butter and sweets just a bit too much.

The recipe has a few more steps then my recipe, but in the end, it saves a ton of calories. Instead of using heavy cream, you use low fat milk (there's a novel idea), cream cheese, a little flour for thickening, and the regular parmesan cheese. In my case, normally if my sauce needed thickening, I'd just add more cheese. The flour acts as a thickening agent and can help keep the excess cheese out. On top of that, the whole meal is much healthier than eating the full fat version. How much healthier? Well, there is only 490 calories per serving and only 15 grams of fat. Yes, it's still a bit unhealthy, but you could have almost three servings of this before hitting the calorie content of the restaurant's serving. On top of that, you'd have to have five servings of this low cal treat in order to match the fat content. Sounds like a winning recipe to me!

Want to make it even healthier? Add whole wheat pasta instead. Check out the whole recipe here. The next time I have a hankering for fettuccine Alfredo, I may be making a healthier sauce and sparing some calories!

How do you make your pasta dishes healthier?

Seth P.