Thursday, October 28, 2010

Skinny Sauces, Take 2

Once the first chilly fall day hits, I want nothing more than to eat a warm, savory dish.  Something hearty and creamy with pasta.  The only problem? A delicious pasta with a creamy sauce is often synonymous with fat.   As much as I love big sweaters, I am not too quick to eat food that will force me to spend the fall months hidden under bulky clothes. My solution?  Make a saucy, skinny remix.

One of the classic comfort food dishes loved (and post-consumed hated) by all is fettuccine alfredo.  Find me one person that doesn't like fettuccine alfredo.  Bet you can't do it.  Everyone loves it.  And rightfully so.  Anything with that amount of cream, butter and cheese is sure to please.

Now, find me someone that will eat it wearing nothing but a bathing suit.  Bet you can't do that either.  That stuff makes you feel instantly ten pounds heavier.  And it is always served in a never ending portion.  The second you have filled yourself to the max you immediately regret it. It is the perfect victim for a skinny sauce upgrade.

Most cream sauces are traditionally started with a roux, which is made using flour and fat (usually butter).  Even though fettuccine alfredo is not made using a roux, replicating the texture of a roux is ideal for creating a healthier cream sauce.  In order to do this, I used a cannellini bean puree.  This creates an ideal texture without using butter or cream.  Low-fat milk, garlic and parmesan cheese are the perfect additions to flavor this healthy sauce.

Paglia e Fieno is an italian pasta whose name means straw and hay.  It is a combination of egg tagliatelle and spinach tagliatelle.  Any long thing pasta can be used as a substitute, but try to use a whole wheat or vegetable pasta.

Paglia e Fieno with Parmesan Cannellini Bean Puree

1 can cannellini beans
1 cup 1% milk, divided into 4-1/4 cups plus extra if needed
1 cup of parmesan cheese, additional for finish
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus some for finishing
4 bundles of Paglia e Fieno (equivalent to approximately 4 cups cooked)

Rinse the cannellini beans and place them in a food processor.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 cup of low fat milk and puree until smooth, adding additional milk if needed.  In a pan, drizzle olive oil and saute garlic. Once the garlic is aromatic and translucent, add the bean puree and continue to heat over medium.  Add additional milk 1/4 cup at a time, whisking until an ideal creamy texture is achieved.  Begin to add parmesan cheese in small portions and whisk.  Add additional milk if the cheese thickens the sauce too much.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a pot, bring water to a roaring boil.  Add a pinch of salt, a drizzle of olive oil and add dry pasta.  Boil until al dente.  Drain and place in to a bowl.  Add sauce and mix pasta well.  Serve with fresh shaved parmesan cheese and parsley if desired.

Note:  Bean puree will partially solidify once cooled.  Store left over sauce in a container separate from the pasta.  To reheat, place in a pan and rehydrate with milk or water as needed to reestablish its creamy texture.

What makes this bite better?
Fettuccine Alfredo is a completely indulgent dish that doesn't provide much nutritional value.  Using a bean puree instead of cream and butter not only reduces the amount of fat and calories but also provides the dish with an extra dose of protein and nutrients.  Substituting vegetable pasta instead of regular fettuccine also adds some nutritional points, not to mention color.  Maintaining texture and flavor while swapping loads of calories and fat definitely makes this bite better.

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