How Richard Blais Makes Carbonara Healthy - Exclusive

Pasta carbonara is the ultimate indulgent pasta dish. It's bacon (or some other kind of cured pork), eggs, and cheese on noodles — delicious, but nobody's idea of a balanced meal. Richard Blais has an ingenious hack for turning it into less of a nutritional gut punch without giving up any flavor.

Blais is well-known for his role as a mentor on "Next Level Chef," and he's also the author of "Plant Forward," a book of healthy-ish, mostly vegetarian recipes, so if there's anyone who can make carbonara more nutritious, it's him. While many might think to try to make the carbonara's sauce less rich by using low-fat cheese or a leaner type of meat, he takes a different approach by replacing the pasta with a healthier substitute: broccoli.

As he told Mashed in an exclusive interview, "I just did a broccoli carbonara at home for my kids the other day. Broccoli with cheese and bacon, yes, I'm here for it." This is all part of Blais' strategy for eating more vegetables, which involves applying familiar, beloved flavor profiles to them. "It's not to replace carbonara, but it's just using the flavors of carbonara or whatever, pepperoni pizza, whatever your favorite flavors are, using those to season your vegetables."

Lightening up Italian classics

The advantage of Blais' method is that, since the carbonara sauce isn't made with low-fat ingredients, it's just as delicious as a traditional carbonara. You might argue that this means the dish isn't actually healthy, but by eliminating the pasta, he drastically cuts the number of carbs, making this a good option for people following keto or other carb-restricted diets. Even better, broccoli contributes valuable micronutrients like fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. Pasta is higher in calories and less rich in vitamins and minerals than broccoli.

The broccoli carbonara isn't Blais' only awesome idea for making a favorite Italian dish a little more nutritious. He also has a twist on spaghetti bolognese. This time, rather than ditching the pasta, he gets rid of the meat. "Instead of meat, grind up some mushrooms, carrots, and onions, and you'll still have bolognese. You'll still approach it and realize that it's bolognese." With tips like these, you can improve your diet without having to give up your favorite recipes and flavors.

"Next Level Chef" airs Thursdays on Fox at 8 p.m. ET/PT.