Stress eating, what? Who, me? Noooo, never. Okay, maybe. As the countdown to my move out of state begins and everything seems to be going haywire, I find myself needing a little comfort food. My usual go-to comfort food is pasta with butter, Parmesan, and salt and pepper, but today I decided to go a little further and make this creamy yet lightER Spinach Alfredo Pasta.
Goes well with: Homemade Garlic Bread
What is in Alfredo Sauce?
So, to be honest, this is not really an alfredo sauce (I actually wanted to call it “faux-fredo), but sometimes recipes names are a bit figurative. Real alfredo has like, a stick of butter, a pile of Parmesan, and sometimes (especially if you’re in America) a whoooole lot of heavy cream.
I swapped the heavy cream for whole milk, reduced the butter by a lot, and used a little cream cheese to help thicken and stabilize the sauce. So, it’s no longer technically an alfredo, but hey, it’s close enough for me to pretend and feel like I’m eating something super indulgent.
Does it Reheat Well?
This Lighter Spinach Alfredo Pasta is definitely better when fresh (although I would NEVER turn down leftovers of this), so if you’re cooking for one or two consider cutting the recipe in half. Luckily, this one is super easy to scale up or down. Just change the number of servings in the “servings” box on the recipe card below and the ingredients will auto-adjust.
Can I Use Frozen Spinach?
Yes, you can use frozen spinach if necessary, just keep in mind that the texture will not be as nice as the fresh spinach. To use frozen spinach, thaw it completely, then squeeze out as much extra moisture as possible (or else it may turn your sauce green). Add the squeezed frozen spinach at the same point the fresh spinach is added in the recipe below.
Lighter Spinach Alfredo Pasta
- 12 oz. penne pasta ($0.74)
- 2 Tbsp butter ($0.27)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
- 2 cups whole milk ($0.62)
- 6 oz. cream cheese ($1.50)
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan ($1.23)
- 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
- Freshly cracked black pepper ($0.05)
- 4 cups baby spinach ($1.33)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil to cook the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Add the butter and minced garlic to a deep skillet or pot and sauté over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or just until the garlic is soft and fragrant, but not brown.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the milk to the skillet along with the cream cheese (cut into chunks). Heat the milk and cream cheese while whisking, until the cream cheese has fully melted into the milk.
- Whisk in the grated Parmesan cheese and continue to whisk as the sauce comes up to a gentle simmer. When it reaches a simmer, the sauce will thicken. Turn the heat down to low to keep the sauce warm. Season the sauce with 1/4 tsp salt and a generous amount of freshly cracked pepper.
- Add the fresh spinach to the sauce and stir it in until it has wilted and become limp.
- Finally, add the cooked and drained pasta to the spinach alfredo sauce and stir to combine. Serve immediately.
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!
How to Make Spinach Alfredo Pasta – Step by Step Photos
Start by cooking 12 oz. penne pasta according to the package directions (boil a large pot of water, add the pasta, and continue to boil until al dente). While the pasta is cooking, start the “alfredo” sauce. Mince two cloves of garlic and add them to a deep skillet or pot with 2 Tbsp butter. Sauté over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or just until the garlic is soft and fragrant, but not brown.
Add 2 cups of whole milk to the skillet and turn the heat down to medium-low.
Also add 6 oz. cream cheese, cut into chunks. Heat and stir or whisk the milk and cheese until it is fully heated through and the cheese has melted into the milk. You’ll want to use a whisk once the cheese begins to melt.
Whisk 3/4 cup grated Parmesan into the milk sauce. Continue to whisk while the mixture heats, allowing it to come up to a gentle simmer. When it reaches a simmer, the sauce will thicken. Once the Parmesan has fully melted in and the sauce has thickened, turn the heat down to low to keep the sauce warm. Season the sauce with 1/4 tsp salt and a generous amount of freshly cracked pepper.
Now it’s time to add the spinach. I buy these huge bags of fresh spinach, which are the same amount as those large tubs you can buy, but it’s only $3.99 (the large tubs are usually more like $5.99). Anyway, add about 4 cups of spinach to the hot alfredo sauce…
And stir it in until it has wilted and limp. This should only take a few minutes.
Finally, add the cooked and drained penne pasta and stir until everything is combined and coated in the thick sauce.
And that’s it! Now you’re ready to get your pasta on.
Seriously though, this Lighter Spinach Alfredo Pasta is rich and creamy without being like, “OMG I just ate a brick.”
I’m all about that cracked pepper. 🤤