My husband just LOVES the creamy lemon and caper pasta at our local Sweet Tomatoes restaurant, so I decided to try to make it for him at home. I found a recipe from Souplantation (owned by the same company as Sweet Tomatoes), but I couldn’t bring myself to make it as heavy as the restaurant recipe—a full cup of heavy cream was more than I could handle!
So, I created this healthier, copycat recipe with organic ingredients, and my husband and I both loved it just as much! I swapped organic whole wheat penne for the regular pasta and organic half and half for the cream and added a box of frozen organic spinach to increase the nutrition (and the serving size). These simple swaps decreased the calories by almost 200 per serving.
A note about going lower: You could use fat-free half and half in this recipe to make the calories even lower, but I think this is a bargain for using the full-fat kind. Also, don’t try to decrease the butter or swap it for margarine; you need the fat to make the roux work and thicken the sauce. And less than a teaspoon of butter per serving isn’t bad! If you still want to decrease the calories even more, try adding more veggies until you have enough total for six portions; less pasta equals fewer calories! Any leafy greens, broccoli, peas or green beans, or even julienned carrots or squash would be delicious in this dish.
Even though this tastes fancy, the dish is really easy to whip up, so don’t save it for a special occasion. I was able to knock this out while my husband and daughter ran a 30-minut errand. And with only one pot to wash, this could easily fall into regular weeknight rotation.
- 1 tablespoon table salt
- 8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta, uncooked
- 10 ounces frozen spinach
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 cup half and half
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chicken base (see note)
- 1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons capers
- In a large pot, bring 6 cups water and 1 tablespoon salt to a full boil. Add pasta and cook for about 8 minutes. Add frozen spinach and cook an additional 2 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Immediately drain and set aside, reserving ½ cup pasta water. While pasta is cooking, grate lemon peel and juice lemon.
- In the pasta pot, make a roux by melting the butter and stirring in the flour. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring often to prevent burning.
- Add the half and half, lemon juice, chicken base, lemon zest, kosher salt and black pepper. Whisk vigorously to prevent lumps. Simmer about 10 minutes, or until thickened, stirring often to prevent burning.
- Add cooked pasta, spinach, and capers to the sauce and toss to serve.