Monday, July 30, 2012

Chicken Tortellini ... With Low-Fat Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo Sauce

Chicken Tortellini ... With Low Fat Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo Sauce
(Serves 6) 
(Difficulty Level:  Intermediate)

Healthy eating is a choice ... a mindset ... a way of life.  The beauty of it is that, even when you get off-track on a particular day or weekend, you can start anew the next morning.  Even making part of a meal lighter (i.e., the sauce or some key ingredients) is a genuine step you can take right now for you and your loved ones toward achieving a healthy eating lifestyle.  90 pounds ago, I would have said that you absolutely had to avoid anything labeled Alfredo if you had any good sense at all.  Not true.  This recipe is hot off the presses, folks.  When sitting in court one day (yes, I'm an attorney), I envisioned a hearty pasta meal laced with a "skinny" but flavorful Alfredo sauce and veggies.  My "Chicken Tortellini With Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo Sauce" is a culmination of almost everything I strive to put in my quick and healthy dinners ... low in fat and full of proteins and vegetables.  Not only is this dish pleasing to the palette, but it's also vibrant in color and texture and can be made in 30 minutes or less!  Add this one to your power rotation tonight!

2 "family size" packages of fresh, refrigerated chicken tortellini (any brand will do)
1 package/6 links of sweet Italian sausage (I prefer Premio)
1 large zucchini, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 package of pre-sliced mushrooms
4 tbsps low-fat margarine
3 tbsps minced garlic
4 tbsps all purpose flour
4 cups fat-free milk (I prefer Skim Plus)
1 cup non-fat or low-fat cream cheese (any brand will do)
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (pre-packaged)
1 jar (8 oz.) of julienned sun-dried tomatoes
2 tbsps of canola oil (or any cooking oil including olive oil, corn or safflower)
Paprika (just a sprinkle)
Red pepper flakes (just a sprinkle)
Salt and pepper to taste

The Basics
- Gather all of your sauce ingredients and measure them out.
- Start a large pot of your pasta water boiling.  Lightly salt the water.
- Place the sausage links in another pot.  Fill the pot with water just high enough to cover them, and bring the water to a boil.  Cook the sausage about 90% through, which should take about 5 minutes at a rumbling boil.
- Remove the sausage from the water and slice them into bite size pieces.  Drain the water from that pot and hold it aside because you will use it to make your sauce.
- In a large pan, add the canola oil and saute the sliced sausage, zucchini and mushrooms over medium high heat until the vegetables soften and the sausage starts to brown.  Lightly salt this mixture.

- Start boiling the chicken tortellini.  You want to cook it to al dente.

The Sauce
- While your pasta is boiling, saute the margarine and garlic for about 1 minute over medium heat.
- Whisk in the flour.  Then, slowly whisk in the milk
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thick, about 3 minutes.
- Whisk in cream cheese and Parmesan cheese, until smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the sun-dried tomatoes and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and paprika.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove the sauce from heat.

- Strain the cooked tortellini and put it back in its pot.
- Toss the sausage and vegetable mixture in.
- Lightly pour the delicious sauce over the pasta, sausage and vegetables, toss, and serve.

- According to my father, this meal is best served with some crusty Italian or French bread and a nice, crisp side salad.
- If you are planning to make enough of this dish to eat as leftovers, I recommend making and reserving a little extra sauce to moisten up the tortellini the following day as it can absorb some of the existing sauce overnight.
- You can add any vegetables of your liking, as some people do not prefer mushrooms.
- You do not have to use chicken tortellini ... regular cheese or other meat-filled pasta will do.
- If you can get the cream cheese close to room temperature before hand, the better.

Real Meals for the Working Woman

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