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[Photograph: Lucy Schaeffer]

Francine Segan calls the avocado sauce in this dish from her new cookbook, Pasta Modern, a healthy alternative to dairy-based cream sauces, but it hardly tastes like bland diet food. The buttery fruit gets a quick buzz in a blender with plenty of lemon juice, turning velvety thick. It melts into the hot, white wine-scented pasta, adding a flavorful coating to the red onion, and shrimp. A dusting of lemon zest enlivens the dish, making the spaghetti impossible to put down.

Why I picked this recipe: Who can say no to avocado cream sauce?

What worked: This dish is a wonder—every element has a purpose, and each sings brightly throughout every bite.

What didn't: Again, Segan doesn't say to save pasta cooking water, but a little bit is helpful here to bring the dish together.

Suggested tweaks: You could simplify the dish further by cutting out the shrimp if you'd like. Or, change the protein entirely to a bit of bacon or small pieces of chicken.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Pasta Modern to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.

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