Light & Healthy Spaghetti Carbonara

Yesterday, I announced that I was doing a cookbook challenge — ATK’s Light & Healthy 2010, cover to cover. And I meant every word.

Let’s dig into the cover recipe, Spaghetti Carbonara!

Carbonara is a rich and heavy dish. No question. The essential players that make up the dish are spaghetti and bacon smothered in a cream and grated Parmesan sauce, then beaten eggs are poured into it for a rich and creamy decadence that leaves you feeling happy but sluggish afterward. On their own and in mass quantities, the ingredients aren’t the best for you, let alone poured together. Typically, Carbonara recipes hover around 600 calories and 28 grams of fat per serving. And don’t even get me started on the cholesterol — around 150mg. Yikes.

Now these are the numbers provided in the book by the Test Kitchen. So whatever recipe they were basing these off of, I don’t know. They might be a little inflated, though I doubt it. I’ve had a few different Carbonara recipes before, some of them from well known chefs (Zuni cafe comes to mind) and I would guess this is a fairly accurate number across the board. The book provides a much lighter solution that is delicious, definitely lighter and I didn’t miss the old, heavier versions at all.

Light & Healthy nutrition information:

Serving Size: 1 cup

Calories: 410

Carbs: 58g

Protein 16g

Fiber 3g

Sodium 420mg

Fat: 11g

Sat. Fat: 3.5g

Cholesterol: 55mg

So right off the bat you can see why I said yesterday that this is not a diet book. This is merely a way of making your favorite, decadent foods lighter and healthier. At 11g of fat it’s still hefty, but you’ve at least taken the gun out of its hands and stilled the crazy look in its eye before it comes charging at your gut like a crazed rhino. In the past, I only dared to cook this dish once a year. Now I can cook it more often.

Light & Healthy Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 6

Adapted from Light & Healthy 2010

2/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (can substitute Parmesan)

1/4 cup fat-free evaporated milk

1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise

1 large egg

1 large egg white

2 ounces Canadian Bacon, chopped coarse

2 slices bacon, chopped coarse

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 pound spaghetti


1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Process the cheese, evaporated milk, 1/2 tablespoon of the mayonnaise, egg, and egg white in a food processor until smooth, about 15 seconds. Leave the mixture in the food processor.

Cook the Canadian Bacon and bacon together in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon is browned, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.

When I stuck the bacon into the frying pan, my cat came over to check it out, hoping I might drop something for her. I never did, but something better happened — the Canadian bacon was getting so hot it was “popping” out of the pan and flying out — at my cat. She was so startled by the sudden bacon attack that she went running from the kitchen.

In Soviet Russia, food hunt you.

(Overused meme win!)

Add the garlic and pepper to the fat left in the pan, and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the wine, bring to a simmer and cook until thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. If you’re a good multi-tasker, you can put the water on during the bacon step. Add the pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti since it’s better for you and, I think, more hearty) and 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook, stirring often, until al dente. The spaghetti box will tell you how long. Reserve 1/2 cup of the spaghetti water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Toss the pasta with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise until coated.

Add the wine & garlic reduction, with 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water, to the food processor mixture. Process until smooth and frothy, about 1 minute. Immediately pour the egg mixture over the pasta and toss to combine. If it’s too dry for your liking, add a little more of the reserved pasta water. Stir in the bacon. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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