Healthy & Lightened Whole Wheat Pasta Alfredo

Believe it or not, there is a way to make a pasta dish with an "Alfredo" or "Carbonara" style sauce that is light and somewhat healthy. It's not hard to make and the recipe borrows on ideas from my favorite cookbook, Deceptively Delicious. It is also a variation of a recipe I posted last month, Whole Wheat Pasta with Lemon and Ricotta Sauce. Today's offering is much more satisfying and filling in a way that my lemon and ricotta pasta was not. What I discovered to making this dish have more body, texture and over-all mouth appeal was the addition of pureed cauliflower. I used less non-fat ricotta, added in some olive oil and used grated cheese at the end for an extra punch of salty flavor. Next time I make this, I think I'll add some crispy pancetta, turkey bacon or Canadian bacon bits so that it becomes a carbonara dish. However, I won't be taking that to the shul for my lunch!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Pound Whole Wheat Spaghetti or Linguine
  • 1 Cup Non-Fat Ricotta
  • 1 Cup Cauliflower Puree (use frozen cauliflower, cook and mash or puree in a food processor or blender)
  • 1 Cup Frozen Peas
  • 6 Sun-Dried or Oven Roasted Tomatoes - cut into small pieces (don't use oil cured or packed) optional
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 3 or 4 Garlic Cloves - minced
  • 1 Bunch of Basil Leaves - chiffonade for garnish
  • Parmesan Cheese - for garnish
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. When it reaches a boil, add in two tablespoons of salt before adding the pasta to the water. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to the package directions. One minute before the pasta is done, add in the frozen peas to defrost and cook through. If using very dry sun-dried tomatoes, add them to the pasta cooking water too so they will reconstitute; otherwise if the sun-dried tomatoes are pliable, add them to the pasta once it's drained.
  2. Before draining the pasta, reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and peas and keep warm in the pasta pot.
  3. In a small sauce pot, heat the quarter cup of olive oil and the minced garlic cloves over low-medium heat until the garlic begins to caramelize - about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low to keep the garlic from burning. Remove from heat and pour the garlic and oil mixture over the cooked pasta and peas.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together the pureed cauliflower and ricotta cheese. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Thin the mixture starting with one cup of the reserved pasta cooking water. If the ricotta and cauliflower mixture is too thick, thin it further with the addition of the pasta cooking water. Pour this mixture over the the pasta, peas and sun-dried tomatoes, gently mixing to incorporate the ricotta/cauliflower mixture.
  5. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with a garnish of chopped basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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