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Lightened-Up Pasta Alfredo

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

We eat a lot of pasta in our household. I mean a LOT. My husband Lucas is the biggest pasta fan I know; he could eat it every single day (and he totally did in college).

On the other hand, I usually avoided pasta during my college days, deeming it “unhealthy” (read more about my food freedom journey here). But over the years I’ve grown to embrace pasta for what it is – a delicious, minimal prep, energizing carb source that is the perfect base for just about anything. This Lightened-Up Pasta Alfredo is one of our weeknight dinner favorites!

The Perfect Base for Any Meal

Pasta is one of my favorite pantry staples; I have at least 2 boxes of pasta in my pantry at all times. Bowtie is Lucas’ favorite, but I’ve really enjoyed trying out the different chickpea and lentil varieties lately. With more fiber and plant-based protein than traditional pasta, chickpea and lentil pastas are the perfect base for vegan or vegetarian pasta dishes like my Lightened-Up Pasta Alfredo, a favorite weeknight dinner in our household.


The Secret Sauce Ingredient

Don’t get me wrong, traditional alfredo sauce has a place in a balanced diet, but this “lightened-up version” is just as decadent, but much more nutritious, and perfect for any night of the week. The secret ingredient in my “lightened-up” alfredo sauce is… hummus! The main ingredient in hummus is the chickpea (also known as the garbanzo bean). Chickpeas are rich in plant-based protein, phosphorus, fiber, iron, unsaturated fatty acids, and folate as well as resistant starch. The addition of hummus to this cheesy pasta dish yields a smooth and creamy sauce with an extra boost of protein and fiber to keep you satisfied and fueled for hours!


Quick Tips Before You Get Cooking

  1. Make sure you reserve the pasta water for a thick and creamy sauce. Pasta water yields a much sauce consistency than tap water.

  2. For more flavor, vitamins, and variety, top this dish with some color. I prefer either Garlicky Roasted Broccoli and Bell Peppers (recipe below) or sautéed mushrooms, spinach, and sun dried tomatoes.

  3. If you decide to go vegetarian with this dish, use a high protein pasta for a more balanced meal. I like chickpea pasta from Banza or lentil pasta from Barilla.

  4. If you want to go meatFULL with this dish, I suggest adding chicken or shrimp. They both pair so nicely with the creaminess and flavor of the sauce.


Garlicky Roasted Broccoli and Bell Peppers

These garlicky roasted broccoli and bell peppers are the perfect colorful addition to this pasta dish! Simply drizzle broccoli florets and bell peppers strips in olive oil, season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and roast at 400oF for 20 minutes.


What’s in This Recipe?

  • Pasta – contains energizing carbohydrates; wheat, brown rice, chickpea, and lentil pasta varieties are richer in fiber than traditional pasta

  • Mozzarella cheese – contains calcium and protein; provides flavor

  • Pecorino romano – contains calcium, lower in lactose than soft cheeses, provides flavor

  • Milk – contains protein, calcium, and vitamin D for strong bones and muscle recovery

  • Hummus – plant-based protein, fiber, iron, folate, and resistant starch; I like using Sabra hummus in this recipe, but feel free to use your favorite

  • Pasta water – pasta water contains starch and yields a smoother, thicker sauce than tap water when it comes to making sauces

  • Herbs and Spices – Italian herb blend, garlic powder, onion powder, red chili flakes, salt, and pepper

  • Olive oil rich in unsaturated fatty acids, linked with lower LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels and higher HDL cholesterol levels

  • Shallot – vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, and manganese, contains quercetin and organosulfur compounds which may be beneficial for reducing the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes

Lightened-Up Pasta Alfredo

Prep time: 5 minutes

Bake time: 20 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Servings: 4


Ingredients:

  • 8 oz uncooked pasta

  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded mozzarella

  • 1/4 cup (1 oz) grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1/2 cup hummus

  • 1/2 cup pasta water

  • 1/4 tsp. Italian herb blend

  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder

  • 1/4 t garlic powder

  • Pinch of red chili flakes

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • Black pepper to taste

  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tbsp. minced shallot

Directions:

  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions for al dente.

  2. While the pasta boils, in a small bowl, combine the milk, cheese, hummus, and spices.

  3. Once the pasta is done, drain (make sure to reserve 1/2 cup pasta water), and set aside.

  4. Using the pasta pot, preheat 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil at medium high heat. Once the oil is heated and appears shiny, add the shallot. Sauté until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes), frequently stirring to prevent burning.

  5. Add the cheese and hummus mixture and the pasta water to the pot. Cook, stirring continuously with a whisk, until the mixture just begins to boil and thicken (about 3-4 minutes). Remove from sauce from the heat and add pasta to the sauce. Stir until pasta is well coated.

  6. Divide among 4 bowls and top with veggies and pecorino romano or parmesan cheese as desired.

 

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. When you make this Lightened-Up Pasta Alfredo or any Hope For Balance recipe, tag me at @hope.for.balance and use the hashtag #hopeforbalance for a chance to be featured in my Facebook or IG stories. I LOVE seeing your creations!

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