Fettuccine Alfredo, Lightened Up

A classic serving of fettuccine alfredo has more than 1200 calories. Make it easier on the waistline with our secret ingredient: low-fat cream cheese!

Creamy, cheesy alfredo sauce lightened up? Can it be true? I've been searching for the best ways to make fettuccine alfredo easier on the waistline, and it all comes down to my secret ingredient.

The Bad News: Fat and Calorie Overload

A typical portion of this decadent dish has 1200 calories, 75 grams of fat, 47 grams of saturated fat and gives you more than half a day's worth of sodium. Yikes! Looking at a recipe, it’s not hard to figure out why. The star ingredients are buckets of heavy cream, butter, cheese and mountains of pasta.

The Good News: Lightening It All Up

When it comes to these creamy, indulgent dishes, it's better to not try to replace ALL of the high-fat ingredients completely. Instead, to keep flavor, you simply use less (much less). A little butter, cream and Parmesan cheese can go a long way.

Simmering a large amount of heavy cream and butter creates a thick and creamy sauce. Since a single cup of cream has more than 800 calories, only use a 1/4 cup of cream and then add in my secret ingredient -- light cream cheese! This swap makes the sauce just as silky and only adds a fraction of the fat and calories. Other options are milk thickened with cornstarch, yogurt, part-skim ricotta cheese or chicken stock.

As for the cheese, you’re in luck. Parmesan cheese is naturally lower in fat than many other cheeses and it has a strong flavor, so you only need a little. A half to 2/3 cup of grated cheese is plenty for a recipe that serves four people (it'll be cheaper, too).

Perfecting Portions

Gigantic servings are where many pasta dishes go wrong. Instead of piles of pasta, serve your fettuccine in single-cup servings along with a lean protein (chicken or shrimp) and some vegetables. Below is my recipe, which I often serve with roasted shrimp and broccoli. The whole meal takes less than 20 minutes to make!

Dana’s Fettuccine Alfredo

Serves: 4

8 ounces fettuccine (use whole-grain versions -- whole-wheat or brown rice pasta -- for extra fiber)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces light cream cheese
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cream; season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes as the sauce thickens. Add cream cheese and mix well with a whisk until smooth. Add cooked pasta and grated cheese; toss well to combine. If mixture appears too dry, add small amounts of reserved cooking liquid until the sauce is smooth and pasta is well coated. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Info (per 1 cup of pasta):
Calories: 400
Total fat: 16.5 grams
Saturated fat: 10 grams
Carbohydrates: 47 grams
Cholesterol: 56 milligrams
Sodium: 538 milligrams
Protein: 18 grams
Fiber: 6 grams
    More Healthy Fettuccine Alfredo Recipes:
TELL US: How do you lighten up your alfredo sauce?
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