If I were going to be stranded on a desert island, and I could take only one food with me, it would be macaroni and cheese. It is the single most comforting comfort food. With its chewy noodles, gooey sauce, and creamy mouthfeel, I’d have no qualms about eating that every day.
But here in the real world, that’s hardly an option. The stuff in a box actually tastes terrible and is laced with chemical ingredients that kind of ruin the whole experience when you think about it. And if you really go for it at a restaurant, a bowl of chicken Alfredo at Olive Garden has 1500 calories! The classic mac at Macaroni Grill has nearly 700 calories… in the kids serving!
This pasta in a white wine Parmesan sauce is very real, much more likely to happen that the desert island scenario, and comfort food I can enjoy without any discomfort of guilt. Why? It rings it at 419 calories for the whole bowl!
Even more remarkable perhaps is the mere 128 milligrams of sodium and whopping 8 grams of fiber! Dare we say one of the healthier bowls of pasta around?!
How’d we do it? Well, we kind of leaned on Abra Pappa’s philosophy from her Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese recipe last year. And that is, to achieve a good cheese sauce you don’t need more cheese, or even fattier cheese, you just need higher quality cheese. And surprisingly, less of it!
In total, in this entire recipe, there is a half-cup of cheese. Half of which is a really good Parmesan, and the other is a low-fat ricotta.
We also cut out cream entirely, instead using other flavor agents, which are low-sodium vegetable broth and white wine. But not just any white wine, King’s Ridge Pinot Gris, which is this incredibly crisp wine made with a lot of heart and soul outside of Portland, Oregon. It’s a very approachable, everyday wine that’s as enjoyable to drink as it is to cook with and you can score it for about $13! The richness and balance of acidity in this wine, along with its bright citrus notes, become an exceptional complement to the parm in this sauce.
In plain speak – it’s just really darn good!
And as much as I love just a simple bowl of carbs tossed with cheese, I knew I needed to make myself a more mature bowl of pasta. So it’s got just a little grilled chicken, which could easily be left out entirely or subbed for shrimp.
I also bulked it up with vegetables. This adds tons that satiating fiber to the dish which means I don’t have to eat as much to feel full, and I’ll keep that feeling of fullness longer. Which ideally should keep me from sneaking extra bites from the pan!
Toss everything together with fresh basil to make this big, ooey, gooey, totally comforting bowl of guilt-free pasta and cheese that will make you wish you could wash up on a desert island with only the clothes on your back and a crate with only these ingredients.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup King’s Ridge Pinot Gris
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
cracked black pepper to taste
2 cups whole wheat bow tie pasta
1 cup frozen sweet peas
1 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
handful of fresh, chopped basil
8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1. Prepare chicken breast; we prefer lightly peppered and cooked on the grill. Slice thin and set aside.
2. Cook the pasta to the al dente stage, according to package instructions, strain, and set aside.
3. In a skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat and add the garlic. Then stir in the flour to create a paste. Whisk constantly and slowly add the broth and wine. Continue to stir until nearly at the point of boiling. The mixture should start to thicken. Finally, add the cheeses and pepper, whisking until well combined, creamy, and smooth.
4. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce, as well as the peas, mushrooms, fresh basil, and grilled chicken. Toss everything together until well combined and serve.
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Recipe by Brandi Koskie; Photos by Kacy Meinecke
September 30th, 2013