A creamy and cheesy pasta that is also light and packed with vegetables!
Way back when I was in elementary school (before I started the healthy eating thing) I was the pickiest eater, with my diet comprising of white bread, white pasta, and white rice. One of my favorite ways to eat pasta was with store-bought Alfredo sauce.
I didn’t have it all the time, so I really enjoyed it when I did. My motto back then was basically “you can never have too much cheese!” 😂 still true though.
While I'm pretty much over that white-pasta-with-jarred-Alfredo phase (I honestly think it's way too heavy), I still love and crave a pasta with a thick and cheesy sauce. So, I made this Healthy Chicken + Veggie Alfredo Bake that's light and packed with vegetables, but still super cheesy and creamy.
So what makes this recipe healthy?
I think the first swap we need to address is the Alfredo sauce, because that's where the fat is loaded.
This sauce is actually very low in fat, with low-fat milk instead of cream and fat free mozzarella as most of the cheese (although there is a bit of Parmesan😉). Fat free mozzarella tastes almost exactly like regular mozzarella, but without the heaviness and guilt. You really can't tell the difference between the two (unless maybe you eat it straight out of the bag lol).😂
There are a lot of recipes I've seen and tried which use milk instead of cream, and the result is usually a really thin sauce. I like my Alfredo to be super thick and creamy, so I used one of my favorite substitutes: potatoes!
I used the same trick in multiple of my recipes, including Vegan Broccoli "Cheddar" Soup , One-Pot Creamy Vegan Mushroom Soup , and Healthy Vegan Pot Pie , and I will continue to use it again and again. The potatoes are blended (or mashed, if you don't have/don't want to use a blender) with a bit of milk, then added to the sauce for extra thickness.
Potatoes have gotten a bad rep for being unhealthy, but they are actually really good for you. They have protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and are very filling. It's also tastier and cheaper than other healthy thickeners, such as cashews (in my opinion).
Next: the veggies! Usually an Alfredo pasta has just broccoli, but I felt the need to add just a few more to add a nutritious punch. This includes:
- Green onion/spring onion/whatever you call it
- Brussels sprouts
- Broccoli, of course
The extra variety of veggies makes this dish even tastier, especially when they're caramelized.😍
The last two healthy swaps I want to talk about are the chicken and pasta.
For the chicken, I used chicken breasts. It's much lower in fat than other types of chicken, and most of the calories come from protien.
Frozen chicken is totally fine (I use it a lot), just make sure it is fully thawed before cooking. If the middle is still frozen, it won't cook evenly.
For the pasta, I used whole grain penne. Whole grain pasta has a lot more fiber than white. You can also use vegetable pasta, but it doesn't have as much fiber as whole grain. Check the ingredients and make sure you get one that uses actual vegetables, not vegetable powder (vegetable powder does not have as many health benefits).
If you don't have penne, any tube-shaped pasta works too, such as ziti or rigatoni. These types are ideal for a thick sauce like this Alfredo, but honestly you can use whatever you have. I'm not going to make you go to the store just to get the perfect pasta type.😂
I really hope you like this recipe! If you decide to make it, be sure to post a picture and tag me @nutritiousdelights on Instagram--I'd love to see it!❤️
Healthy Chicken + Veggie Alfredo Bake
- 2 lb chicken breasts cut into 1" cubes
- 1 large onion
- 2 ½ cups broccoli florets
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup brussel sprouts cut into eighths
- 1 cup chopped spinach
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsely
- ¼ cup sliced green onions optional
- 2 ½ cup potatoes cut into cubes
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 3 cups low fat milk divided
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
- ¼ cup Parmesan
- 1 cup fat free mozzarella plus more for topping
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt divided
- 1 teaspoon pepper divided
- 2 tablespoon garlic herb seasoning divided
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 lb cooked whole grain penne pasta
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, toss together the potatoes with a tablespoon of olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and a teaspoon of garlic herb seasoning. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until fork tender.
- In a large nonstick pan, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil on high heat. Pat chicken dry, then add to the pan with ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and 1 teaspoon garlic herb seasoning. Cook for about 5 minutes, until they are fully cooked and the internal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from pan and drain any excess liquid.
- Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Add the onions and brussel sprouts and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook for another 2 minutes. The onions, brussel sprouts and broccoli should be browning. Add the mushrooms and green onions with a splash of water and cook for 2 more minutes. Add another tablespoon olive oil if desired. Lower heat to medium high and add spinach and 2 cloves of garlic. Mix with 2 teaspoons garlic herb seasoning, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Remove from heat and combine with chicken.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, blend (or mash, but the texture will be better if blended) with ¾ cup milk and ½ teaspoon garlic herb seasoning. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a medium saucepan, heat up a tablespoon of olive oil and a clove of minced garlic on medium high heat. Slowly whisk in the flour. Slowly incorporate 1 cup of milk, ¼ cup at a time, while constantly whisking. Add in the blended potatoes, then incorporate the rest of the milk. Add the cheese and keep whisking until melted. You can add more milk if you want the sauce to be thinner, as it will end up pretty thick. Mix in the fresh parsley, Italian seasoning, dried oregano, and remaining garlic herb seasoning. Add the rest of the salt and pepper to taste.
- In a large baking dish (I used 9"x 9"x 3"), combine the cooked penne, chicken and veggies, and the alfredo sauce. Top with fat free mozzarella. Bake for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the entire dish is warmed throughout. Serve with fresh parsley.