It’s not often that you will find nuts in a pasta dish, unless it’s pine nuts, which are not super nutritious. Being the “Nutty” Nutritionist my goal is to put nuts in everything I make, or almost everything. You may think it’s weird to put pistachios in your pasta, but give it a try. The flavors meld perfectly with the asparagus in this dish, and they give the pasta a nice little crunch. Not to mention the wonderful nutrients that are in pistachios. Pistachios are the lowest calorie nut and they are a great source of potassium and B vitamins, particularly thiamin and B6. One serving of pistachios is 45 nuts, compared to only 23 almonds or 14 walnut halves.
I could have named this pistachio protein pasta, but I didn’t want to be that annoying nutritionist that titles all of her posts with “protein.” For example, my Protein Salad. So, I went with power. Power because this pasta is full of carbs (which give you energy), and also full of protein (which helps build muscle). The protein comes from my secret ingredient in the sauce – plain Greek Yogurt. Greek yogurt has between 12 and 15 grams of protein per 6 oz serving. Regular yogurt only has 3-5 grams of protein per serving. Usually white sauce is made with two main ingredients, butter and heavy whipping cream. This recipe uses minimal butter and Greek Yogurt instead of heavy whipping cream, making it higher in protein and much lower in saturated fat.
This recipe was inspired by my favorite pasta dish at Viva La Pasta; number 8, no prosciutto. The Viva version is soo creamy and delicious, but due to its high fat content it sometimes gives me a stomach ache. If you have had your gallbladder removed you will definitely know what I’m talking about. My lightened up version has all of the flavor but no unpleasant side effects. Try it out for yourself!
- 1 box penne pasta (13-16 oz.)
- 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup grated part-skim mozarella cheese
- 1 cup half-n-half
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 -7 oz. container Greek Yogurt
- fresh ground black pepper
- pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- ½ cup pistachios, toasted
- Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions
- Boil asparagus in salted water for three minutes and place in ice bath to avoid browning. Cut asparagus into 3 inch spears.
- Melt butter in large saute pan, add minced garlic. Cook two minutes.
- Add half and half and both cheeses. Bring to a simmer. Stir until cheese fully melted. Add salt and pepper.
- Reduce heat. Whisk in yogurt until smooth.
- Toss penne with sauce and asparagus. Add toasted pistachios. (toast by heating on the stove, optional). Add red pepper flakes if desired.