Once you veer away from the classic red tomato sauce, finding a healthy pasta sauce isn’t easy.
The traditional selection of popular alternatives is a minefield of calories and fat. A typical Alfredo, for instance, can have as much as 30 grams of fat and 300 calories per 1/4 cup serving.
The healthy green color of a basil pesto can obscure the fact that between the oil, butter, nuts and cheese, 1/4 cup can deliver almost 400 calories and 36 grams of fat. And that’s before adding the pasta and any grated cheese on top.
But this full-flavored artichoke-red pepper sauce is a healthier option. It is naturally low in fat and high in fiber. And as a bonus, it is quite simple to prepare.
Canned artichoke hearts and jarred roasted red peppers are pureed in a food processor with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice and dried basil. The oil enhances flavors and helps the sauce adhere to pasta. But if you like, you can reduce the amount or eliminate it altogether to get even lower-in-fat results.
Be sure to use canned artichoke hearts that are packed in water rather than oil, which will make the sauce higher in fat. Rinsing the artichoke hearts before putting them in the food processor freshens up their flavor and helps to rinse away some of the unwanted sodium that is in the canning
Similarly, avoid using roasted red peppers that are packed in oil or are marinated.
Besides making a delicious topping for pasta, the artichoke-red pepper sauce can be used as a spread on sandwiches, as a dip or even as a crostini topping with some tangy goat cheese.
The sauce is served here with whole-wheat penne, though any shape pasta will do.
Whole-wheat pastas lend a delicious nutty flavor to dishes while adding beneficial nutrients and fiber. They are especially suited to assertive sauces such as this.
The flavors and textures of whole-wheat pastas have improved quite a bit in recent years, so if you didn’t care for them in the past, you may want to give them another try.
WHOLE-WHEAT PENNE WITH ARTICHOKE-RED PEPPER SAUCE
Start to finish: 25 minutes (15 minutes active)
Ingredients: Two 14-ounce cans quartered artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained; 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained; 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; 4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried basil; 1/8 teaspoon salt; freshly ground black pepper, to taste; 1 pound whole-wheat penne or other small pasta shape; 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Directions: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, then drain and return to the pot.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the artichoke hearts, red peppers, olive oil, lemon juice, basil, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Set aside until the pasta is cooked.
Add the sauce to the pasta and toss over low heat until heated through. Serve immediately, topped with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Nutrition information per serving: 416 calories; 63 calories from fat; 7 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 74 g carbohydrate; 15 g protein; 12 g fiber; 644 mg sodium.