Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spring Chicken Linguine No-Fredo with Peas and Asparagus

Do you like peas?
How about asparagus? You like that?


My I present to you: Spring Linguine Chicken No-Fredo with Peas and Asparagus (and Bacon)!!**

There is a reason this is called no-fredo. Because this is NOT alfredo sauce. I don't often go for half-ass healthy recipes (like alfredo made with half and half...), but there is a recipe for one such pasta with peas and bacon in one of my old Cooking Light mags that has survived a couple of cross-country moves.  So, as you can see... no-fredo and I have a history. 

I love pasta. But, as you know, noodles (along with bread and other deliciously simple carbohydrates) sure do pull the short end of the stick when it comes to healthy eating. So, when we choose to make it for ourselves, it makes the most sense to pack it full of vegetables and use ingredients with a lot of flavor.

Spring Linguine No-Fredo

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 20 min
Serves 8

4 slices center-cut bacon
2 shallots, chopped
5 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (divided)
16 oz linguine pasta
5 Tbsp butter, salted (divided)
16 spears fresh asparagus, cut into 2” pieces
2 cups half and half
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded (two generous handfuls)
1 cup peas, frozen
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the bacon over medium heat in a large, deep skillet. Remove cooked bacon from pan, crumble and set aside.
2. In the same pan, sauté shallots, garlic, and 1 ½ tsp thyme in the bacon fat until softened (about 3 minutes).
3. While shallots and garlic are cooking, sauté asparagus in a separate pan with 1 tablespoon butter and ½ tsp thyme until crisp-tender (about 4 minutes).
4. Melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan, then add half and half and chopped parsley.  Gently simmer for 5 minutes. Add Parmesan a little at a time, whisking until all cheese is melted before adding the next batch. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. 
5. While the no-fredo simmers, boil the pasta to al-dente according to package directions.  
6. Add the peas, mushrooms, sautéed asparagus, and sliced chicken breast to the shallot mixture in the big skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and the chicken is heated through.
7. Drain cooked pasta and add to big skillet.
8. Pour no-fredo sauce over the pasta and gently stir to combine with pasta, veggies and chicken. Voila!

Nonfat half and half: Calories 492, Total Fat 15.0 g, Cholesterol 74 mg, Protein 32 g, Fiber 3.5 g
Regular half and half: Calories 535, Total Fat 21 g, Cholesterol 95 mg, Protein 32 g, Fiber 3.5 g
(Heavy cream [1cup]): Calories 559, Total Fat 25g, Cholesterol 111 mg, Protein 32g, Fiber 3.5g)

Don't get me wrong, this pasta would be absolutely heavenly with a thick, velvety, alfredo cream sauce. And more bacon. But that's not what I made. The lower fat version of no-fredo sauce is thin and won't pull together like a heavy cream sauce, so please don't expect that if you choose the non-fat route. In fact, the sauce pretty much broke down over heat. But, gosh darn it, this pasta was tasty, cost less than 500 calories per serving, AND it reheated well for lunch the next day. Feel free to use whatever type of cream you desire, but if you go full-fat alfredo on me, I recommend following a different recipe for the sauce (like this one from the Pioneer Woman) rather than simply subbing cream for the half and half.

* See the beginning of this post regarding my favorite thing to do when choosing dinner recipes.
**Don't feel too bad for him. In all honesty, HE is the one who suggested an asparagus pasta. And he actually enjoyed the asparagus in this dish (at least more than the peas). 

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“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
― Anaïs Nin