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
Make sure you reserve the pasta water for a thick and creamy sauce. Pasta water yields a much sauce consistency than tap water.
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.
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
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
Prepare pasta according to package directions for al dente.
While the pasta boils, in a small bowl, combine the milk, cheese, hummus, and spices.
Once the pasta is done, drain (make sure to reserve 1/2 cup pasta water), and set aside.
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.
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.
Divide among 4 bowls and top with veggies and pecorino romano or parmesan cheese as desired.
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