Fettuccine Alfredo, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, December 15, 2009

fettuccini alfredo
Creamy, cheesy alfredo sauce lightened up? Can it be true? I’ve been searching for the best ways to make fettuccine alfredo easier on the waistline, and it all comes down to my secret ingredient.

The Bad News: Fat and Calorie Overload
A typical portion of this decadent dish has 1200 calories, 75 grams of fat, 47 grams of saturated fat and gives you more than half a day’s worth of sodium. Yikes! Looking at a recipe, it’s not hard to figure out why. The star ingredients are buckets of heavy cream, butter, cheese and mountains of pasta.

The Good News: Lightening It All Up
When it comes to these creamy, indulgent dishes, it’s better to not try to replace ALL of the high-fat ingredients completely. Instead, to keep flavor, you simply use less (much less). A little butter, cream and Parmesan cheese can go a long way.

Simmering a large amount of heavy cream and butter creates a thick and creamy sauce. Since a single cup of cream has more than 800 calories, only use a 1/4 cup of cream and then add in my secret ingredient — light cream cheese! This swap makes the sauce just as silky and only adds a fraction of the fat and calories. Other options are milk thickened with cornstarch, yogurt, part-skim ricotta cheese or chicken stock.

As for the cheese, you’re in luck. Parmesan cheese is naturally lower in fat than many other cheeses and it has a strong flavor, so you only need a little. A half to 2/3 cup of grated cheese is plenty for a recipe that serves four people (it’ll be cheaper, too).

Perfecting Portions
Gigantic servings are where many pasta dishes go wrong. Instead of piles of pasta, serve your fettuccine in single-cup servings along with a lean protein (chicken or shrimp) and some vegetables. Below is my recipe, which I often serve with roasted shrimp and broccoli. The whole meal takes less than 20 minutes to make!

fettuccine alfredo
Dana’s Fettuccine Alfredo
Serves: 4

8 ounces fettuccine (use whole-grain versions — whole-wheat or brown rice pasta — for extra fiber)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces light cream cheese
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cream; season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes as the sauce thickens. Add cream cheese and mix well with a whisk until smooth. Add cooked pasta and grated cheese; toss well to combine. If mixture appears too dry, add small amounts of reserved cooking liquid until the sauce is smooth and pasta is well coated. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Info (per 1 cup of pasta):
Calories: 400
Total fat: 16.5 grams
Saturated fat: 10 grams
Carbohydrates: 47 grams
Cholesterol: 56 milligrams
Sodium: 538 milligrams
Protein: 18 grams
Fiber: 6 grams

TELL US: How do you lighten up your alfredo sauce?

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Comments (17)

  1. stacey krawczyk says:

    Tofu Alfredo Sauce
    This recipe replaces the traditional heavy cream and butter with Tofu and saves 453 calories per serving for the sauce alone!
    Makes 4 servings, (sauce alone)
    1 package (12oz) firm silken tofu
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    ½ cup parmesan cheese
    1 Tbsp vegetable oil
    1 ½ tsp dried basil
    1 Tbsp dried parsley
    ¼ tsp black pepper
    1 tsp Kosher salt (or less to taste)
    1 tsp onion powder
    ¼ cup skim milk or plain soymilk
    1 # frozen chopped broccoli (or fresh)
    1 pound pasta, cooked and drained
    • Combine sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Warm in the microwave 3-
    4 minutes on high, or until hot.
    • Cook pasta. In the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add frozen (or fresh) broccoli to cooking water.
    Drain and toss with Alfredo Sauce. Top with more cheese if you like (you've save tons of fat calories in the sauce, you can enjoy them here!)
    Nutrition Information: Per Serving: 52 Calories, 4 g Protein, 1 g Carbohydrate, 3 g Fat
    Traditional Alfredo Sauce Comparison: 505 Calories, 9 g Protein, 5 g Carbohydrate, 51 g Fat

  2. Kate says:


    thanks for the tofu recipe that's really creative!!!

  3. Karla says:

    A true Fettuccini Alfredo doesn't even have cream in it so I make the real deal using only butter, parmesan, salt and fresh ground pepper to taste with a ladle or so of the pasta liquid to make the "sauce". You'll never miss the cream!

  4. MomLena says:

    Dana and Karla I love your recipe & suggestions for making this lighter. thanks

  5. Susan says:

    I used silken tofu in my beef stroganoff recipe and it was great. Worked well using shiritaki noodles too.

    • Shiritaki noodles are a great idea since they are so much lighter than pasta noodles. Most people are fine with tofu, as long as you don't tell them that it's there before they eat. It's a wonderful creamy fflavorless chameleon filler.

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  7. Wow, thanks a bunch m8

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