Some recipes designated as “skinny” will swap more-caloric ingredients for ones that are less dear, and from my testing trials, I can say it’s an approach that does not always deserve a starred rating. Now, omnivores who are intent on health-conscious eating can make peace with trade-offs in lip-smacking satisfaction, but I have yet to master the art.

Better for me to follow the path set by Ellie Krieger, who writes the Nourish column for Food. She often blends those caloric components in judicious amounts, emphasizing other ingredients that heighten flavor.

That’s precisely what this pantry-friendly recipe is about. It calls for butter, umami-blessed cheese and creamy dairy, but not so much of each. A tumble of fresh, finely chopped herbs gives the dish its essence even as it lightens the overall effect. Sauteed garlic and the starchy cohort of pasta cooking water complete just enough of a sauce to coat a slightly thicker noodle like fettuccine.

All the good stuff, for under 500 calories per serving. Serve with a side of sliced ripe tomatoes, or grilled mushrooms and peppers.

Recipe Note: If garlic is not your friend, you can use 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot instead.


Kosher salt

6 ounces fettuccine (may substitute spinach fettuccine)

One (1-ounce) block Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Leaves from 6 stems parsley (flat-leaf or curly)

About 12 basil leaves (may substitute 12 short stems chives)

Leaves from 2 stems thyme (may substitute fronds from 2 large stems dill)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic

1/4 cup half-and-half

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional; may substitute small pinch freshly grated nutmeg)

Freshly ground black pepper


Step 1

Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add a few generous pinches of salt, then the pasta; cook according to the package directions (about 8 minutes), until al dente.

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Step 2

Meanwhile, grate the cheese. Finely chop the parsley, basil and thyme; gathering them together is okay.

Step 3

Melt the butter in a deep skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Mince the garlic and add it to the pan. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and just softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the half-and-half and the cardamom, if using. Reduce the heat to medium-low; gradually add half the grated cheese, stirring until it has melted.

Step 4

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of its cooking water.

Step 5

Add the pasta and chopped herbs to the pan; toss long enough to coat the fettuccine and distribute the herbs evenly. Return the pan to the stove and cook over medium-low heat, for about 1 minute. Add enough of the reserved cooking water to thin the sauce, or to create more of it, and cook until creamy and warmed through, about 30 seconds or so.

Step 6

Season generously with pepper, top with the remaining cheese and serve.

Adapted from “Skinny Pasta” by Julia Azzarello (Kyle Books, 2018).

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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Calories: 470; Total Fat: 14 g; Saturated Fat: 8 g; Cholesterol: 40 mg; Sodium: 360 mg; Carbohydrates: 64 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 4 g; Protein: 17 g.