Lightened Up Penne Alla Vodka

Lightened Up Penne Alla Vodka

Penne alla vodka, a forever classic, and a favorite among all ages. Penne pasta with a creamy red sauce topped with parmesan cheese, dreamy. What about a lightened up penne alla vodka recipe that is less than 300 calories per serving? Even more dreamy!!

So how do you make a creamy vodka sauce that is lower in calories and a bit friendlier to the hips? Well I did some research and found multiple recipes using half and half instead of heavy cream, or greek yogurt. I finally found a recipe that used low fat cream cheese and it all clicked. I do find that cream cheese tends to add the creamiest, best tasting flavor when it comes to lower calorie, but creamy dishes. So alas, I decided upon fat free cream cheese as the addition to the sauce.

Of course, this recipe features some fresh basil, which is a game changer in my opinion. I truly love fresh basil, in nearly all Italian dishes but especially penne or pasta dishes. So what else do we need for this healthy penne alla vodka recipe?

Lightened up penne alla vodka ingredients:
  • Barilla Protein Plus Penne: This is a game changer, it honestly improves the nutrition composition of this recipe a lot and all grocery stores should have it! This recipe uses the entire box
  • Fresh Basil: chopped and added in right at the end so it does not shrivel into thin air… any pasta dish with red sauce is better with fresh basil right? 
  • Vodka: Yep, you actually need vodka to make penne vodka sauce, but no worries it cooks out, you do not even taste it!
  • Fat Free Cream Cheese: This is where the creaminess comes in, in low calorie fashion. You really can’t even tell the difference between low fat and fat free cream cheese. However, if you are unable to find fat free cream cheese you can use low fat or Temptee, just note the nutrition will change.
  • Canned Crushed Tomatoes: Did you know this is nearly like a tomato sauce? I always thought it would be chunkier but it is pretty smooth in consistency. This recipe uses a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes.
  • Crushed Garlic: I like to use the crushed Polaner garlic but if you want to crush your own garlic be my guest! I used around 2 cloves of garlic or 1-1.5 tsp of crushed garlic
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese: If you can’t find this parmesan cheese will work just fine, they taste nearly identical. I just have a preference for pecorino!
  • Onion powder, salt, red pepper flakes, and dried basil: Spices can make or break a recipe! I would be wary of the red pepper flakes, if you add too much this may have a spice that you do not want !!
  • Sugar: This is optional, but it is such a small amount and it makes just the right amount of difference to the sauce.

So how do you make the lightened up penne alla vodka?
  1. Start by boiling a large pot of water. Once boiled add the penne and allow to simmer.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, in a large saucepan, saute the garlic lightly over low heat. Add in the crushed tomatoes, vodka, dried basil, onion powder, salt, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, and cook on low for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Check the pasta, it should be al dente, reserve 1 cup of pasta water, and drain the rest.
  4. Add the cream cheese into the sauce in small chunks, stir continuously until the cream cheese is melted and fully combined into the sauce. This will likely take around 5-8 minutes. It will melt slower than you think! You can bring it up to medium heat for this.
  5. Lastly, add in the romano cheese, fresh chopped basil, penne pasta and stir. You can add in the pasta water, around ¾ cup or the full cup to loosen up the pasta.
  6. Serve with garlic bread, more cheese, and if you are like me some grilled chicken on the side.
  7. This recipe makes 7 servings.

Each serving of this healthy penne alla vodka is pretty darn big. So feel free to prep this for the week, or make it for your whole family. As we know, penne vodka is a kid favorite! The best part is you can enjoy it with them!

One serving of lightened up penne alla vodka:

257 grams

283 calories 49.1 grams carbs /  1.9 grams fat / 14.9 grams protein

As I noted above in the recipe section, I like to have a biscuit or bread and some grilled chicken on the side. However, 15 grams of protein per serving of this dish is great! You can easily track this recipe by searching HNFit Lightened Up Penne alla Vodka in My Fitness Pal.

Other Pasta Dishes You Will Enjoy:
Frequently Asked Questions:

How many calories are in penne vodka?

In a typical penne vodka dish, you are looking at nearly 650 calories per serving. The lightened up penne alla vodka is only 283 calories per serving, and mind you these are big servings!  

How many calories are in vodka pasta sauce?

Vodka sauce alone is usually around 207 calories, this dish, sauce and pasta included is only 283 calories 49.1 grams carbs /  1.9 grams fat / 14.9 grams protein.

Is pasta and vodka sauce bad for you?

No, absolutely not! No food is inherently bad for you if you watch your portion sizes. Our society has demonized pasta and carbs of all sorts and it is unfortunate because pasta is delicious! You can eat all of your favorite things as long as you are mindful about it!

Why do you use pasta water?

The pasta water adds a bit of liquid into the dish so that it is not dry, since we use cream cheese in place of heavy cream it is a bit thicker once you add in the pasta, the addition of pasta water thins it out a bit but with the addition of the starch from the noodles it’s perfect.

Yield: 7

Lightened Up Penne Alla Vodka

Lightened Up Penne Alla Vodka
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces fat free cream cheese (room temp)
  • ¼ cup pecorino romano cheese
  • 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 box of Barilla Protein Plus Penne Pasta
  • 2 oz of vodka (I used Tito’s)
  • 1-1.5 tsp of crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 ½ tsp dried basil
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil chopped
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sugar

Instructions

  1. Start by boiling a large pot of water. Once boiled add the penne and allow to simmer.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, in a large saucepan, saute the garlic lightly over low heat. Add in the crushed tomatoes, vodka, dried basil, onion powder, salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, and cook on low for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Check the pasta, it should be al dente, reserve 1 cup of pasta water, and drain the rest.
  4. Add the cream cheese into the sauce in small chunks, stir continuously until the cream cheese is melted and fully combined into the sauce. This will likely take around 5-8 minutes. It will melt slower than you think! You can bring it up to medium heat for this.
  5. Lastly, add in the pecorino romano cheese, fresh chopped basil and penne pasta and stir. You can add in the pasta water, around ¾ cup or the full cup to loosen up the pasta.
  6. Serve with garlic bread, more cheese, and if you are like me some grilled chicken on the side.
  7. This recipe makes 7 servings.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

7

Serving Size:

257 grams

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 283Total Fat: 1.9gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 315.9mgCarbohydrates: 49.1gFiber: 7.1gSugar: 3.8gProtein: 14.9g

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