Pasta Alfredo with Broccoli and Mushrooms

We made this recipe a lot back when we had broccoli growing in our garden. I loved that it tasted like a nice Italian meal, but it was really simple to put together. It doesn’t contain any fancy ingredients, just good quality basics that everyone should have on hand.

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I always substitute half and half for cream in alfredo sauces. I don’t like eating super heavy feeling meals and this lightens it up while maintaining that creaminess. You don’t even notice the missing calories. I have been experimenting with whole wheat pasta to try to find a brand we like the best. I can’t remember which I used with this recipe. Do you have a favorite?

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It’s not health food, but it is a lightened version of a favorite and with the added vegetables and whole wheat pasta it feels a little less indulgent. If you’re not so worried about indulgence. Maybe it’s a special occasion and you want to fancy it up a bit more, I think that some sliced Italian sausage would be a really tasty addition to the meal. As is, it’s a great meatless meal if you’re a vegetarian or maybe just want to cut meat out once in a while by participating in Meatless Monday

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Pasta Alfredo with Broccoli and Mushrooms

adapted from The New Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated (recipe: Fettuccini Alfredo)

Ingredients:

10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups, approximately, broccoli florets
1 2/3 c half and half
5 Tbs butter
1 lb. pasta
1 c (2 oz.) fresh grated Parmesan
ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
salt, to taste

Directions:

In a medium saute pan, heat olive oil for sauteing, about a tablespoon. Add the mushrooms, balsamic vinegar. Add salt to taste, if desired. Saute until mushrooms are tender and have absorbed the vinegar. Set aside.

Bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add 1 Tbs salt and the pasta to the water. Stir to separate pasta. Cook pasta until almost al dente. Add the broccoli to the boiling water during the last 2 minutes of the pasta’s cooking time.

Combine 1 1/3 c of the half and half and the butter in a saute pan large enough to accommodate the cooked pasta. Heat over low until the butter is melted and the cream comes to a bare simmer. Turn the heat off and set aside. (I found that this took the length of the time it took the pasta to cook, so I never turned it off and set it aside).

Drain cooked pasta and broccoli and add it to the saute pan. Add the remaining 1/3 c of half and half, Parmesan, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook on very low heat, tossing to combine the ingredients, until sauce is slightly thick, 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately in heated pasta bowls.