Putting Alfredo on a diet: flavorful pasta enlivens low-fat sauce

FASTLANE FEAST

August 25, 1991|By Charlyne Varkonyi

Times have been tough on the classic Alfredo sauce. Food safety specialists have said we'd better forget about using a raw egg or face a possible attack of salmonella food poisoning. Watch-your-diet advocates have warned that the triple-fat threat heavy cream, butter and cheese in the same recipe may hurt our hearts.

The result: Most fettuccine Alfredo isn't what it used to be.

It's easy to eliminate the raw egg. But the other proclamations are harder to live with. Those who want to abide by the reduce-the-fat rules, use a flavored pasta to make up for the richness lost by using margarine instead of butter and light cream or half and half instead of heavy cream.

Unfortunately, not all flavored pastas are created equal. Too many promise a distinctive taste and deliver only a fraction of flavor for the extra bucks you are required to shell out. For this Fastlane Feast, I used a wild mushroom pasta by Al Dente. It's pricey -- $3.99 to $4.29 for 12 ounces -- but it lives up to promise. (You can find it locally at gourmet stores, such as Morton's in Baltimore.)

If you can't find the mushroom pasta, substitute the strongest wild mushrooms you can find and use the traditional fettuccine noodles.

Serve the pasta with a hearty pumpernickel bread and fresh slices of tomatoes drizzled with a flavorful extra virgin olive oil and topped with salt, pepper and fresh basil. Cut up fresh peaches and add two tablespoons of peach liqueur per peach, allowing them to macerate when you eat the main course.

Items you should have in your pantry include: salt, pepper, butter or margarine, grated Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, olive oil.

Your 10-item or less shopping list should include:

*12 ounces wild mushroom pasta or plain fettuccine noodles

*1 pint light cream or half and half

*8 ounces white mushrooms

*Italian parsley

*Fresh basil

*1 loaf pumpernickel bread

*4 fresh peaches

*Peach liqueur

Pasta Alfredo with mushrooms

Makes 4 servings.

1 tablespoon salt

12 ounces wild mushroom pasta or plain fettuccine noodles

1 stick ( 1/4 pound) butter or no-cholesterol margarine

8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced

2/3 cup light cream or half and half

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Italian parsley, for garnish

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and pasta and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain pasta.

While water is coming to a boil, melt butter in a large frying pan. Saute mushrooms for about 5 minutes. Place drained pasta in a large pasta bowl. Add cream and mix. Add butter and mushrooms and about half of the Parmesan cheese and mix again. Toss with a couple of wooden spoons until well blended. Add rest of Parmesan gradually while continuing to toss. Garnish with sprigs of Italian parsely and serve.

Starting today, Fastlane Feast will appear every other Sunday in Maryland Kitchen.

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