Pasta dishes can be unhealthy, depending on the noodles and sauce you use — but they don’t have to be! If you swap regular pasta for a whole grain variety and add veggies, for example, you’ll make it a much more nutritious dish. Another strange but clever swap? Rather than putting heavy cream or butter in your pasta sauce, use oatmeal to make it creamy instead. As it turns out, oatmeal can enrich and thicken pasta sauce without adding extra calories. But don’t take my word from it — take it from Philippe Chevalier, the personal chef to Oprah; he developed this trick so the media mogul could enjoy pasta while sticking to her long-standing health goals. Keep reading to learn why this breakfast staple is the perfect ingredient for healthy, creamy pasta at home.
How Oatmeal Makes a Healthier Pasta Sauce
Butter and/or heavy cream are used in white pasta sauces like Alfredo sauce and cacio e pepe. These ingredients provide the sauce with its signature rich and decadently creamy taste. But while heavy cream and butter are flavor enhancers, they’re also high in calories. One tablespoon of unsalted butter contains approximately 102 calories, while ½ cup of heavy cream contains about 400 calories. Most white sauces exceed those quantities of each ingredient. Therefore, frequently consuming calorie-rich sauces made with butter and heavy cream may increase your likelihood of weight gain.
Fortunately, replacing butter and cream with oatmeal is a healthier way to satisfy your creamy pasta cravings. This trick involves cooking fiber-rich steel cut oats in chicken or vegetable stock for about 15 minutes. After cooking, the oats should absorb some (but not all) of the liquid, and straining the mixture leaves behind a thick, starchy liquid that’s used in the sauce as a butter and cream substitute. Because the oat grains are cooked in stock and aren’t being added to the sauce, their nutty taste isn’t actually noticeable in the dish.
Chef Chevalier conceptualized this trick when Oprah requested a healthier version of her favorite meal, lemon pasta with peas and mushrooms. “I had to have a come-to-Jesus moment with him. Although butter is bread’s best friend, it is not mine,” she explained on her Oprah Daily platform.
You might assume skipping out on butter and heavy cream will mean you’re sacrificing taste. But in truth, you won’t be able to tell the difference between this pasta dish and other creamy versions. “I can’t believe there’s no cream in it,” Oprah herself said of the oatmeal-enriched pasta. Watch the video below to see she and chef Chevalier discuss the dish, which delivers on deliciousness without any of the guilt.
Oprah’s Favorite Healthy and Creamy Pasta Recipe
To recreate Chef Chevalier’s Butter-Free Lemon Pasta recipe yourself, follow the instructions below.
- 1 box your favorite spaghetti, cooked al dente
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups mixed mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoon shallots, chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
- Cooked oatmeal (1 cup of steel cut oats, 4 cups of water, and 1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube)
- 1 cup grated parmesan
- ½ tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoon chives, chopped
- 1 tablespoon basil, chopped
- ½ cup of peas, cooked
- 4 tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- Candied lemon, if desired
- Total time: 45 to 50 mins
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- In large pot, boil 4 cups water. Then add one cup oatmeal and one cube chicken (or vegetable) bouillon. Cook 15 minutes.
- In bowl or liquid measuring cup, strain about ½ cup of liquid from cooked oatmeal; set aside. (Note: Store remaining oats and liquid separately in fridge. Use liquid to make another batch of pasta. Enjoy oats with boiled egg or vegetable for savory oatmeal.)
- In a large pan over medium heat, add olive oil. Place mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme in pan. Sauté for about 30 seconds. Pour in oatmeal liquid and stir.
- Add grated Parmesan and dash of lemon zest to pan. Stir until cheese is melted.
- Sprinkle chives, basil, and peas into mixture. Stir to combine.
- Turn heat up to medium-high and add about one tablespoon lemon juice.
- Add cooked spaghetti to pan and toss until noodles are coated in sauce. Season with salt, pepper, and/or extra lemon juice (if needed) to taste.
- Plate, and garnish with basil and candied lemon if desired.
My Taste Test
When preparing this recipe, I made two modifications. First, I used linguine rather than spaghetti (it’s a wider noodle that clings onto sauce better, in my opinion). Second, I didn’t add peas because it’s my least favorite green vegetable — sorry, mom!
This recipe was every bit as tasty as those pasta dishes made with fat-laden white sauce, plus it was better for me. Thanks to the oatmeal liquid, the butter-free sauce’s ultra creamy consistency coated every last strand of pasta; it was salty and savory but miraculously didn’t retain any of the oats’ nuttiness. The tender oyster mushrooms I used added an earthy flavor, and the herbs and lemon provided the dish with some pungent citrusy notes.
This recipe is definitely time-consuming — so I’d save it for a weekend rather than a busy week night. Still, every step of the journey was worth it for producing a pasta dish that I didn’t feel guilty eating second helpings of. This recipe is Oprah-approved, and it lives up to the hype!
Would you eat oatmeal pasta? Tell us in the comments below.