Most selections are a minefield of calories and fat. A typical Alfredo, for instance, can have as much as 30 grams of fat and 300 calories per 1/4 cup serving.
Basil pesto may have a healthy green color, but with oil, butter, nuts and cheese, a 1/4 cup can deliver almost 400 calories and 36 grams of fat before adding pasta or grated cheese.
But this full-flavored artichoke-red pepper sauce maybe a solution. It is naturally low in fat and high in fiber and is quite simple to prepare.
Canned artichoke hearts and jarred roasted red peppers are puréed in a food processor with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice and dried basil. The oil enhances flavors and helps the sauce adhere to pasta. But the amount can be reduced or eliminated to get even lower-fat results.
Use canned artichoke hearts that are packed in water rather than oil. Rinsing the artichoke hearts before putting them in the food processor freshens their flavor and helps wash away unwanted sodium in the canning solution.
Similarly, avoid using roasted red peppers that are packed in oil or are marinated.
The artichoke-red pepper sauce also can be used as a spread on sandwiches, as a dip or as a crostini topping with tangy goat cheese.
While any pasta will work, whole-wheat pasta lends a nutty flavor to dishes while adding beneficial nutrients and fiber. They are especially suited to assertive sauces such as this.
The flavor and texture of whole-wheat pastas have improved quite a bit in recent years, so if you didn't care for them in the past, you may want to give them another try.
Whole-wheat penne with artichoke-red pepper sauce
1 pound whole-wheat penne or other small pasta shape
2 (14-ounce) cans quartered artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine artichoke hearts, red peppers, olive oil, lemon juice, basil, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Set aside until the pasta is cooked.
Add sauce to the pasta and toss over low heat until heated through. Serve immediately, topped with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Makes 6 servings.