Truth is, a little fat like that can go a long way to turning a basic dish into one that is exceedingly comforting. Steak, for example, is dramatically improved with a cream-based pan sauce. Pureed vegetable soups taste like indulgences with just a bit of cream. And don't even get me started about what it does for mashed potatoes and baked sweet potatoes.
And none of these recipes requires a ton of cream, so you won't necessarily bust your diet. Think of it as a seasoning or accent flavour, something to tie everything together.
To make my point, here is a simple and delicious weeknight-friendly pasta dinner that uses a bit of heavy cream to make the dish taste like you spent way longer on it. If you'd prefer a vegetarian version, just leave out the ground beef. And, of course, this dish is plenty versatile. Add veggies as you see fit, or substitute ground pork or chicken for the beef.
ROTINI WITH CREAMY BURGER SAUCE
Start to finish: 20 minutes
1 pound rotini (spiral) pasta
1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Two 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, then drain.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high, combine and the beef and onion and saute, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Cook until the beef is starting to brown and the onions are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, soy sauce and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the heavy cream to the meat sauce and simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the cheese, then the pasta, tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Nutrition information per serving: 540 calories; 150 calories from fat (28 per cent of total calories); 17 g fat (8 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 80 mg cholesterol; 66 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 28 g protein; 690 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org