Kudos to Julia’s Album for its success in having the most repinned pasta recipe on Pinterest with her Chicken and Bacon Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes in Garlic Cream Sauce. 2.8 million repins is positively mind-boggling . . . but so was the 1028 calorie cost per serving.
I knew I had to figure out how to make this intriguing dish so that non-meat eaters could enjoy it and consume far fewer calories.
Since reading the article on Food Network about Julia’s recipe, I’ve made this dish a couple of times using different types of plant-based protein – and I’ve hit on two that deliver excellent results.
For the chicken, I chose Quorn Chik’n Tenders. After all, they are meatless, soy and gluten free – so what’s not to like? The only problem is that because they contain a small amount of egg whites, they aren’t suitable for vegans. Luckily, Quorn makes Vegan Chik’n Tenders, which I also enjoy.
Although Julie used paprika on the chicken in her original recipe, my five years living in Baltimore convinced me that (almost) everything is better with Old Bay. So, I gave my sautéing tenders a liberal sprinkling of Old Bay – and poof! They became instantly addictive to my hungry hubby.
For the bacon, I used SweetEarth Hickory & Sage Benevolent Bacon. With 61% less sodium, 69% less fat, and 45% fewer calories than pork bacon, even my carnivore hubby is a fan.
Instead of chopping five large tomatoes as Julia did, I used sweet little heirloom grape and cherry tomatoes that I get every week from Gayle’s Gardens at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. I quartered each one, pole to pole, and then quickly scooped out most of the seeds, until I had about a cup.
I debated about using fresh raw organic spinach (which I had) but opted instead for Harris Teeter’s frozen organic spinach to save time – and because it is available year-round.
And although Julia used penne, I opted for Barilla Tri-Color Rotini in order to give even more color to the dish.
I trimmed Julia’s use of olive oil, half & half, and parmesan, and used organic versions of all three ingredients. Lastly, I took a good hard look at how much food the recipe creates, and quickly calculated that it can easily serve 6 people – not the 4 folks that Julia claims it serves.
So, with all this tinkering, I brought Julia’s tasty, comfort-food pasta down to a more manageable 470 calories per serving vs. 1028 in her version.
Not only does my version use 40% less sodium than Julia’s original recipe, but her recipe has an artery clogging 167 mg. of cholesterol per serving vs. 23 mg. in mine.
Here are the stats for my recipe:
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 15g||19%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||30%|
|Total Carbohydrate 55g||20%|
|Dietary Fiber 6.2g||22%|
|Total Sugars 5.8g|
|Vitamin D 4mcg||20%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet.2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
|Recipe analyzed by www.verywellfit.com|
So . . . please try my recipe and experience a healthier, slimmed-down version of the most popular pasta recipe on Pinterest.
- 1 tablespoon organic extra virgin olive oil
- 12 oz. package of Quorn Chik'n Tenders, frozen
- 1-2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
- 4 strips Sweet Earth Hickory & Sage Benevolent Bacon
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup organic cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered and seeded
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup frozen organic spinach
- 1 cup organic half and half
- 3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- 12 ounces Barilla Tri-Color Rotini
- 3 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded by hand into small pieces
- Heat a large non-stick skillet and add the olive oil. Add the frozen Quorn Tenders and sprinkle them with Old Bay as you sauté them. Cook for about 8 -9 minutes and put them in a separate plate or bowl.
- Place the 4 strips of Benevolent Bacon in the still hot skillet and sauté for 2 minutes on each side. Remove and place on a paper towel until cool and then crumble.
- Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
- Add the minced garlic to the empty skillet and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and crushed red pepper. Sauté for 3 minutes and add the spinach and half and half. Cook for about 5 minutes, and then add about half of the Parmesan.
- While you’re cooking the sauce, add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to the pasta water and add the rotini. Cook the rotini for 7-8 minutes until al dente. Before draining, reserve two cups of hot pasta water. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, followed by the reserve Quorn Tenders and crumbled Benevolent Bacon Strips. Add enough of the pasta water to thin the sauce slightly. Add additional Parmesan and the fresh basil.
All Rights Reserved.