Like Recipes?

Sign up to receive Jackie’s recipes right in your inbox!

asparagus fettuccine alfredo

by Jackie Newgent  |  May 29, 2013  |  3 Comments


Makes 4 servings: 1 1/2 cups each

Nearly 20 years ago, fettuccine Alfredo was dubbed “a heart attack on a plate” by Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Catchy name, huh?! Since then, I’ve been asked numerous times if there’s actually a way to make a healthy fettuccine Alfredo—and one that’s still delicious. My answer: sort of!

This version is still a luxurious pasta dish, but definitely a better-for-you pick. And no worries; as always, I don’t use fake fat-free or pseudo-anything here. Fresh asparagus, mushrooms, and whole-grain pasta create extra body, color, and savoriness. I’m lighter-handed on the butter, cheese, and cream, while still using the rich stuff … real heavy cream. And now there are appealing pops of extra flavor from cayenne, nutmeg, and fresh lemon zest. Consider it springtime comfort food … and no longer “a heart attack on a plate!”

Calories Saved: 410

1 3/4 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
10 ounces dry whole-grain fettuccine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound pencil-thin asparagus spears, ends trimmed, cut on the diagonal into 1 1/2-inch pieces
4 ounces thinly sliced baby bella (crimini) mushrooms or mushrooms of choice
2 large garlic cloves, minced or thinly sliced
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg, or to taste
1/2 cup organic heavy cream
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

  1. Add 2 quarts of water to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (still slightly firm), about 9 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus, mushrooms, and garlic and sauté until the asparagus and mushrooms begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, cayenne, nutmeg, and the remaining 3/4 tea­spoon of the salt and cook while stirring until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Drain the pasta. Stir the cream into the skillet with the asparagus mixture. Then add the pasta and toss over medium-high heat until desired consistency, about 1 minute. Add the cheese and toss until the pasta is fully coated. Adjust seasoning.
  4. Transfer to a large serving bowl or individual bowls, sprinkle with the lemon zest, and serve.

Per serving: 470 calories, 22g total fat, 13g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 65mg cholesterol, 730mg sodium, 56g total carbohydrate, 10g dietary fiber, 3g sugars, 15g protein

(Disclosure: I am a paid spokesperson for Barilla America, Inc and the Mushroom Council. However, this recipe was not developed on their behalf; I was not paid to develop it for my blog.)


The “Before” Recipe

fettuccine alfredo

Adapted from recipe by Emeril Lagasse at

Makes 4 servings

1 pound dried fettuccine
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

  1. Cook the fettuccine in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water (with 1 teaspoon of the salt) according to package directions until al dente. Drain in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Set pasta and cooking liquid aside.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sauté until tender. Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. Return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in and place it over medium-high heat along with the reserved cooking liquid. Add the heavy cream mixture and 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and toss to combine thoroughly. Add the remaining 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Adjust seasoning.
  4. Transfer to a large serving bowl or individual bowls. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of the cheese and the parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 860 calories, 47g total fat, 29g saturated fat, 1.5g trans fat, 145mg cholesterol, 920mg sodium, 88g total carbohydrate, 4g dietary fiber, 6g sugars, 25g protein


Tasteover Tips

  • For extra body and savoriness, use whole-grain pasta
  • Add veggies fresh from the farmers market, like asparagus and mushrooms (or whatever is in-season locally); veggies not only boost texture, nutrient richness, and portion size with few calories, they can create more eye appeal by way of their alluring colors
  • There is no ideal substitute for real butter, cheese, or cream—but you can use less of these luscious ingredients
  • When going lighter handed with butter, cheese, and cream, consider boosting flavors by way of your spice rack, such as adding a “kick” with cayenne and sweet-spiciness with nutmeg
  • Finish the dish with lemon zest to add fresh zing

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *