Last Minute Dinner

As some of my friends and family members will tell you, I can be overly meticulous about some things. For instance, I like to plan the meals for a week, make my store list in the order of the layout of the store and do one grocery shopping a week. At least that is my goal for most weeks. Last week I could only come up with four good ideas for dinners, so I went with it and figured I would come up with something by Friday.

Is it any surprise that I was totally without any creative dinner ideas by Friday? And to top it off, it was freezing rain by late afternoon and I really didn’t want to go out to the store or to a restaurant.

After complaining to myself and to Calvin, and brainstorming with him to figure out what we would eat, I started sifting through recipes. I came up with a lighter recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo that I have made a few times. Not the healthiest of dinners, but better than restaurant Fettuccine Alfredo and we had all the ingredients in the house.

Rich was glad to be able to come home and stay home after a stressful drive home on icy roads. And we had time to make some homemade crackers after dinner. But that is another post.

I found the recipe on And of course I changed it a bit. First I used whole wheat pasta to up the fiber and protein. But you can certainly use regular pasta. The original texture seemed a little off, so I doubled the butter and added a splash of cream. You could use 2% milk instead of skim to get a little more creaminess. I reduced the salt from ½ teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon. I left it out the first time I made it, but it is better with just a touch, at least to us. You can certainly salt it to your tastes. You can add diced, cooked chicken at the last minute, if you like. Here’s a use for that bit of chicken that is left over, but not enough for another meal. Throw it in the freezer and save it for adding to this, or any other pasta dish.

Lighter Fettuccine Alfredo
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 4

8 ounces (1/2 pound) fettuccine or linguini, whole wheat or regular
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups skim milk*
2 tablespoons cream (or 2 tablespoons milk)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons 1/3 less fat cream cheese, room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
1-2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces (optional)
Parsley, dried or fresh
Black pepper

Put a large pot of water on the heat on a back burner and bring it to a boil. When the water boils, cook the pasta according to the package directions. You can cook the pasta at the same time that you are making the sauce. If the pasta finishes first, drain it and let it rest in the colander until you need it. If the sauce is done before the pasta, turn the heat off and leave the pan on the burner. If it cools off too much, turn the burner on low for a minute of two, stirring to warm the sauce, before you add the pasta.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan or skillet over medium heat. The sauce will cook faster in a skillet, if you are in a hurry, but don’t be tempted to turn up the heat. You don’t want to bring this to a boil, or even a simmer, once you add the milk and cream. Add the garlic, and cook for one minute, stirring. Stir flour into butter and mix thoroughly. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Stir in cream. Cook 6-8 minutes, or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, cream cheese and salt, stirring until cheeses melt. If your cream cheese isn’t warm enough, it might make lumps, but they will melt and smooth out.

Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss with tongs to combine. Add the chicken now, if you are using it. The sauce will thicken just a bit as some of it soaks into the pasta. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately, with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano and black pepper.

*We drink skim milk, so that is what I have on hand. Feel free to use 1% or 2%.

Download recipe here.



One thought on “Last Minute Dinner

  1. I am impressed that you plan your meals so well in advance, I am working on that! Mostly I just cook on the fly with whatever I have around. Looks like you came up with a good recipe here!

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