Ah, dear dear Alfredo my old friend! We had quite the love affair — that is, until last year when I went on my diet and sadly had to cut him off. My poor heart was breaking at the thought of bidding adieu to this oh-so-attractive creamy, dreamy and steamy man-dish. Watching the cheese melt into the sauce was always my favorite part (down, girl!) . . . yet alas, no cheese was on my diet. With a giant tear streaming down my cheek (hey, every single bit of weight lost counts!), I kissed “Alfie” farewell.
Jump forward one year: I’ve lost the weight and now feel there is a comfort zone for me to eat whatever I want as long as I do it in small portions — and maybe also lighten up on the excess fat that typically goes into such meals. I.e., where there’s a will there’s a way!!! So I put my talents to the test last night in the hopes of bringing back an Alfie that would neither devastate my diet nor insult my palate. I knew I could make this taste as good as the real deal, and by switching out a few ingredients, reducing some others and adding some new ones, I came up with a dish that was just “loverly,” if I do say so myself!
First up: Bechamel (what most cream sauces are based on) is just butter, flour and cream with a little salt pepper and a dash of nutmeg, so I chose to concoct a sauce based around chicken stock instead. The trick was to add baby bella mushrooms for a little extra flavor. (This needs to be done in the same pan to get all that flavor into the sauce.) I swapped the heavy cream for some half and half, reduced the butter by half, and used plenty of fresh basil — distractions are soooo important to remove focus from the fact that a lot of the fat has been eliminated!!!
Fettucine Alfredo “Lite” With Asparagus, Baby Bellas, Chicken and Basil:
roast chicken, I used the taken off bone, skin removed, cut into bite sized pieces
1 package fettucine, cooked
1 package fresh basil, chopped
2 bunches asparagus, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
2 packages baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1 2-cup carton half and half
8 oz Italian cheese, shredded (I used a pre-mixed package of Mozzerella, Provolone, Parmesan, and Romano)
1 package Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Adobo Seasoning
Cook pasta to package directions, retaining a little starchy pasta water and tossing the pasta with that and a little olive oil to keep it from sticking. Set aside.
Take chicken off the bone and cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
Saute the ‘shrooms and set aside.
Saute asparagus and set aside.
Add all these plus basil to pasta pot, cover loosely. In same pan that you used to saute the above, add 1/2 stick unsalted butter. Melt over medium heat and add the flour slowly, stirring constantly with a whisk  until it starts to smell nutty.
Then add chicken stock slowly, stirring constantly,with a whisk. Add half and half , and nutmeg while stirring and lowering the heat, and then add the 8-oz package of cheese plus 4 tbs. of shredded parmesan cheese to the sauce, stirring and making sure it doesn’t stick.
Season with a little saltpepper(if needed),  and Adobo to taste. Pour sauce over the pasta and the veggie/chicken/basil mixture, toss well and put over very low heat covered tightly.
Meanwhile, slice some fresh French bread and set it on the table with olive oil or butter. Turn off pasta and put in a large family style bowl for serving.

And as always, enjoy!!!

© Jennifer Green Alger 2010