Lightened-Up Italian Pasta Nests

Today I have a fun, cute, and delicious recipe to share with you!  Although I tend to gravitate towards red sauces over creamy ones, Tim loves his high fat fettucine alfredo and spaghetti carbonara.  Of course, my mission is to make healthier versions of the all-time classics.  How do I know if I’ve succeeded?  I leave it up to Tim’s discerning palate.  He’s not one to say that something is delicious just for the sake of making me happy.  He’s brutally honest when it comes to food.  It’s def a double-edged sword.

When I first came across this recipe, I just had to race to the kitchen and get to cookin’.  I made some healthier substitutions as you’ll see.  I’ve never used fat-free half and half so I wasn’t sure how this would work out, but it worked beautifully here.

I also loved the idea of baking pasta in a muffin tin.  The final product sure looks like a bird’s nest, no?  This would be great to take to a baby shower, bridal shower, pot luck…It’s portable, pre-portioned, and it makes for an excellent appetizer, snack, or side dish.


Lightned-Up Italian Pasta Nests

Adapted from Cook’s Country


  • 8 oz. thin spaghetti (or angel hair pasta)
  • 1 cup fat free half -half
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 3 oz canadian bacon
  • 2 large eggs
  •  1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated
  • 1 tsp sriracha (or hot sauce)
  • 3 Tbs chopped fresh basil
  • Green olives stuffed with pimentos (optional) *

* I used to hate olives, but recently, I’ve started to appreciate them more and more.  Is my palate becoming more sophisticated? 😉  Tim still doesn’t like them so I added them to only half of the nests.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease 12-cup muffin tin.  Bring water to boil.  Cook pasta until al dente.  Drain pasta and set aside.
  2. Whisk cream, 3/4 cup parmesan, canadian bacon, broth, salt, pepper, nutmeg, sriracha in bowl.  Add pasta and toss.
  3. Using tongs, portion pasta mixture into prepared muffin cups, twisting pasta to form even nests.  Pour any remaining sauce evenly over pasta, sprinkle with remaining parmesan, and press 1 olive into each nest.
  4. Bake until centers are set and tops are golden brown, 20-25 min, rotating tin halfway through baking.  Let nests cool in pan for about 5 minutes.   Run small knife around edges, unmold, and serve.


I like to purchase parmesan cheese at Costco.  I slice it into smaller blocks including the rind (they can be added to soups), saran wrap them individually, and freeze them.  A money saving tip for ya!nutmeg

Nutmeg is a great addition to any cream sauce or meat dish.  Fresh nutmeg is so much better than the pre-ground one, and it really warms up the dish.  I learned this tip from watching Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals.  Thank you Food Network!




I added this to show you that it’s a bit of a messy job.  Be sure to wipe away the extra sauce on the tin before baking.


The verdict?  Tim loved it!  He didn’t even realize it was a healthier version.  It’s perfectly creamy, savory, and indulgent.  I intend to use the recipe to make regular spaghetti carbonara as well.  Hope you enjoy!

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21 Responses to Lightened-Up Italian Pasta Nests

  1. Leah says:

    These are seriously so cute – I love them! You’re right; they would be perfect for a party.

  2. This looks great min! Darin hates olives but I love them 🙂 hope you are doing great!

  3. Min!

    First time I’ve seen a pasta muffin! But such a fantastic idea to use pasta with!

    Juan is the same as Tim when it comes to reviewing the food i cook – although he doesn’t out loud if something I cook is horrible, I can tell because if he doesn’t like something, he doesn’t finish it at all, and if he does like something I’ve cooked, he eats second, third and fourth helpings! We’ve recruited our other halves as our food critics (best part – for free!)

    Have a great day!! 🙂

    • Min says:

      Yup! That’s exactly right! There’s no hiding in Tim’s face when he doesn’t like something. He’ll finish the meal bc he knows how much I HATE wasting food, but boy he sure looks miserable during those times haha.

  4. Cinnamon says:

    I don’t think I have ever even SEEN fat free half and half. Did you get it somewhere special or just the regular grocery store?

  5. Courtney says:

    These are so cute and smart! 😀

  6. Kym says:

    i LOVE carbonara or any creamy pasta so i was really excited to see you post this healthier version and baking them is such a great idea… that cruncy exterior looks delicious!!!! I love crunch… i usually leave my rice on the pan longer to get some crunch. hehe. *Saving recipe*

    • Min says:

      OH yes! I LOVE crunchy rice too! I’m such a sucker for anything crunchy or crispy ;). If you want to get the top really crunchy, you may want to bake a bit longer. But watch your oven. Burnt nests = sad.

  7. what a creative and fun dish! I love pasta, red over white for some reason. everything about this dish is so interesting and i am def. going to try this as one of the weeknights dinner 🙂 thanks Min. your husband is def very lucky to have such a beautiful cook.

  8. jamesabyad says:

    These look so awesome!!!

  9. Love this recipe!! I especially love that you get that crispy noodle exterior 🙂 When my mom would make spaghetti and meat sauce growing up, I would always take the leftovers the next day and saute up the noodles and the sauce together, until the noodles got slightly crispy. That was always my favorite way to eat them.

    Hope you are enjoying your free time and recuperating from all the hard work you put in these last few months!! Thinking of you and praying for you, Min 🙂

    • Min says:

      Hi Maura! Ooh what a lovely idea! I always reheat leftover in the same pan or the microwave but never thought to saute the noodles! I’m going to have to try!
      Thank you so much for thinking of me! I as well!

  10. Michelle Eisenhauer says:

    Going to try this recipe, looks so good!! I’ll let you know how mine turns out.. Thanks, Min

  11. I love these – they are so adorable! This would be a fun addition to a tasting menu 🙂

  12. Umm, yes please, immediately!! These look and sound fantastic!!

  13. Julia says:

    How fun!! I love the basil and sriracha!

  14. These are definitely everything you say – cute, appealing, portable and by the sounds of it, delicious to boot 🙂 I am like you and usually prefer tomato sauces over creamy ones, but these sound like a lovely twist on the classic.

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