I typically shop for the week and try to plan most of my meals, but sometimes things come up and you need something quicker and easier - or maybe your just in the mood for Alfredo! We have a tight grocery budget, so I'm also a big believer in using what I have available and not rushing out to the store just because we were in the mood for something that I didn't plan for. In this case, I already had the penne and the rest of the ingredients because I am always using them - especially the milk and butter, but also the cream cheese and Parmesan. I'm sure you have a "stock" list of items that you consistently use too.
So, what I'm trying to say is that feel free to use the ingredients you have on hand - a different pasta or 1% milk, heavy cream instead of half & half (after all, it only calls for 2 tablespoons). You can also add a cup of frozen broccoli to your cooking pasta a few minutes before it's done to get a veggie in there! Just drain right along with your pasta and toss it in the sauce too.
1/2 box of Penne pasta (8 oz)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups skim milk
2 tablespoons half & half
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (heaping cup full)
2 oz of 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
Cook pasta according to directions on package. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Once fully melted, mix in flour and cook, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Gradually add in a little milk at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Stir in half & half, salt and garlic powder. Continue cooking sauce until mixture thickens and begins to gently bubble, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
Reduce heat to low and add the Parmesan and cream cheese; stir until cheese has melted. Drain pasta well, reserving a little liquid in case your sauce is too thick. Add pasta to sauce and toss evenly to coat, adding a splash of the pasta water if needed to thin out. Serve immediately with freshly ground pepper and more Parmesan cheese.
(Source: Adapted from Cooking Classy)