Lighten up classic Fettuccine Alfredo with this easy chicken spinach alfredo pasta recipe! Ready in 30 minutes with no heavy cream.
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ALFREDOOOOOOO. Is there anything better than pasta that’s drowning in butter and cream and cheese and more cheese? I think not. Is there anything worse for that New Year’s Diet Resolution you’re pretending to keep? Probably also not.
But hey, I’ve got you (and our TOTALLY REAL, no-I-have-NOT-been-binge-eating-this-pizza diet) covered.
I lightened up this creamy, cheese-y spinach alfredo sauce by nixing the cream altogether and instead using a roux with skim milk. Chicken and spinach add some protein (and other probably-important nutrients, blah, blah) and some color to the mix, and finally we thin the sauce out a bit by recycling some of our nice, starchy pasta water.
Creamy? Check. Something green? Check. Hearty and filling? Check. Ready in less time than it takes to accidentally-on-purpose watch JUST ONE MORE EPISODE of Revenge? YOU BETCHA.
Lightened-up, still-creamy, even-has-spinach-so-it’s-basically-health-food, 30 minute chicken spinach Alfredo, at your service.
I’ve been all about these 30 minute meals lately. Nothing that requires more than one pot! Nothing that requires me to leave my house (snow = ugh) and go to the store! Nothing that doesn’t pair fabulously with a very large glass of wine! You catch my drift.
I’ve finally had the last straw with how disorganized our kitchen is, and doing anything that takes a ton of time or makes a big mess just makes me want to drown my sorrows in margaritas.
We moved into this apartment almost six months ago (the time! it flies) and I still feel like I’m living inside a tornado. Our apartment is lovely, but it’s SMALL, and doing a storage/organization overhaul just isn’t something we’ve had time for. We also move so much that it’s almost not worth being totally unpacked in a place, because we’ll just have to pack it all back up again.
Kyle and I have each moved AT LEAST once a year since we were 18. Our last apartment here had a closet full of boxes that were never even opened.
But the other day, when I was hungry and scrounging for the ingredients to throw this YET ANOTHER 30 minute pasta dish together, I realized that I didn’t even really want to be in the kitchen. My KITCHEN! My happy place that also holds all the food and the beer! How depressing is that? So I decided it’s time for an overhaul.
It’s hard to do any kind of “remodel” in an apartment, because we can’t really change anything. I also have zero money, because I decided it would be A REALLY GOOD IDEA to go to grad school. But I’m determined. I’m insanely busy the whole “running a business and also getting my Master’s” thing, but I also know that if I don’t make the time and spend the money to reclaim something as simple as being excited to hang out in the kitchen, then everything else will pretty much just suck.
So my goal is this: take a few hundred bucks. Give my kitchen a makeover. Take lots of pictures so I can share it all with you. COOK ALL OF THE THINGS.
We’ll start with another batch of this Healthier 30 Minute Chicken Spinach Alfredo. Sound good? Good. Onward!
How to make healthier chicken spinach alfredo:
Quick and easy weeknight alfredo with no heavy cream!
- 1 lb. penne pasta
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 Tbsp. all purpose flour
- 2 cups skim milk
- 2 Tbsp. light cream cheese
- 1.5 cups parmesan cheese
- 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
- 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the penne in very salty water until al dente.
- While the pasta cooks, melt butter in a separate large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and sauté until fragrant and cooked through, about 2 minutes.
- Add flour to butter and whisk to combine and form a roux. Let roux cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add milk a little at a time, whisking constantly to work out any lumps. Milk will thicken up quickly at the beginning, but as you whisk the rest of the milk in it will loosen the sauce.
- Cook sauce, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 6 minutes.
- Add cream cheese and whisk until cheese has melted.
- Remove sauce from heat and stir in parmesan cheese, shredded chicken, and spinach into sauce. Stir until cheese has melted.
- Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as necessary.
- Add cooked pasta to sauce and stir until the sauce evenly coats the noodles. Serve immediately.
You can decrease the amount of butter and flour here to 2 Tbsp. each if you want to lighten this recipe up even more, but you’ll need to cook the sauce longer so it still has a chance to thicken properly.
Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta – if your sauce is too thick when you go to stir in the pasta, you can thin it out by adding some of the pasta water to the sauce.
Sauce too thin? Let it cook for several minutes more to thicken up. Too thick? Thin it out by stirring in a splash of pasta water or milk.
Substitute shrimp, salmon, or sausage for the chicken, or leave out the protein to make this vegetarian.
Use arugula or kale in place of spinach if you like.
Add your favorite veggies to this sauce to make it a little heartier! I like to add peas, broccoli, arugula, tomatoes, bell peppers, or even extra spinach.
For best results (and easy cleanup!) cook this sauce in a sturdy, nonstick pot (I love this one from Anolon!).
Serve with my Easy Crusty French Bread!
For an even healthier twist, swap our favorite Magic Cauliflower Cream for the flour and milk in this recipe!