Recipe Rehab: Fettucini Alfredo

Fettucini AlfredoEveryone knows that fettuccine alfredo is a dietary disaster. Like pork rinds, bacon and butter, it’s the poster child for what not to eat if you want to be healthy. Ordering it at a restaurant like Romano’s Macaroni Grill or Olive Garden have more than 1,000 and 700 calories respectively.

Even if you make it at home, Giada’s recipe calls for 2 ½ cups of heavy cream, ¾ cup of butter, and 2 cups of Parmesan cheese! Needless to say, this dish is a prime candidate for Recipe Rehab. True, it’s not an authentic alfredo, but it’s a decent stand-in that delivers a creamy, cheesy sauce—and really, that’s what most people are after with this dish, right? So, here’s what we did to lighten the alfredo’s load of calories and fat:

  • We subbed out all the heavy cream for a slightly reduced amount of protein-added skim milk (we used Hood Simply Smart Fat Free Milk). The protein-added milk has a slightly thicker texture than regular skim, making it seem more like 2% milk. You could use regular skim, 1% or 2% milk if you prefer. We also added a little bit of reduced-fat onion-and-chive cream cheese. It added a nice flavor and some rich creaminess.
  • We decreased the salt a touch, but added flavor by heating crushed (not minced) garlic cloves in the milk for the sauce. A pinch of nutmeg is traditional in alfredo, but we made it optional. Finally, we tossed in a teaspoon of grated lemon rind (aka lemon zest)—it helps balance the flavors.
  • We recommend regular fettuccine because we liked the smoothness of the pasta with the sauce. Feel free to use whatever type of fettuccine you like—multi-grain, whole wheat, gluten-free, whatever. We even experimented with vegetable blend fettuccine (we used Ronzoni Garden Delight) just for kicks. It was more colorful and the texture was fine but the fam preferred the regular old pasta.
  • We used a combination of romano and parmesan cheeses to give more depth of flavor, since romano typically has a stronger taste than parmesan. Again, use what you prefer.

This “enlightened” fettuccine alfredo came out with a moderately thick sauce that had notes of garlic and onion, which is not exactly traditional, but helped make up for the lack of fat present. We added some veggies to our finished dish by stirring julienned zucchini into the hot pasta and then pouring the sauce over and giving it a good stir. You could leave your alfredo plain, or top it with grilled shrimp, chicken or veggies. You could also use this as a side-dish, making a nice, crisp salad the entrée.

Here’s the Recipe Rehab version of Fettuccine Alfredo. Enjoy!

Enlightened Fettuccine Alfredo (makes 6 servings)

1 12-ounce box dried fettuccine

1 ¾ cup milk (we used protein-added skim milk, such as Hood Simply Smart)

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

freshly ground pepper to taste (white pepper is nice, but black is fine)

2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed (not minced)

2 Tablespoons reduced-fat, onion and chive cream cheese

¼ cup grated romano cheese

2 Tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese, plus extra for passing

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

pinch ground nutmeg, optional

chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, optional garnish



  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta over high heat. When boiling, cook fettuccine according to package directions (do not overcook). While pasta water is heating, begin making the sauce.
  2. For the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the milk, flour, salt and pepper. Add in the crushed garlic cloves. Cook about 6 minutes until sauce mixture comes to a simmer and thickens, stirring with a wooden spoon occasionally. Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic cloves and discard them. Stir in the cream cheese, romano, 2 tablespoons parmesan, lemon peel and nutmeg, if desired. The sauce should be thick and smooth. Set sauce aside until pasta is cooked.
  3. When pasta is ready, drain and return it to the large pot. Pour the sauce over it and stir gently to coat pasta with sauce. Divide into 6 portions (about ¾ cup each) and garnish each with chopped parsley, if desired. Pass extra shredded parmesan with the alfredo.


This is another installment of Recipe Rehab from Kit Broihier, MS, RD.

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