For your consumption, here are two pasta dishes that are easy, affordable, and always a hit in our house!
Fettuccini Alfredo with Chicken and Mushrooms
This is rich, and tasty. It’s not a high summer meal, but sometimes on those cooler days we sneak it in if we’re feeling indulgent. This can be made omitting the chicken, replacing the chicken with another protein (bacon, which can be seen in the picture), all mushrooms (double the amount), or skipping out on everything and just going with the classic noodles and sauce. So good and easy to make on the fly or prep ahead.
1 lb fettuccini
1 stick of butter
1 cup of parmesan cheese (see note)*
1 cup of heavy cream
1 1/4 pounds chicken
12 ounces sliced mushrooms
Cut the chicken into 3/4 inch cubes, as even as possible. Lightly salt and pepper.
Slice the mushrooms. Lightly salt and cook with a little bit of olive oil over medium heat until lightly browned
Measure the cheese
Cut butter into small pieces for quick melting
Take cream, butter, mushrooms and cheese out of fridge to warm up. Meanwhile cook the noodles following the package instructions. While the noodles are cooking, sauté the chicken, taking care to not over-cook. Near the end of the chicken’s cooking time, add the mushrooms to the pan to heat through. When the pasta is done, drain and keep in the colander while returning the pan to a low/medium heat. Add the cream, and butter, and heat until the butter has melted. Add the chicken and mushroom mixture and the noodles. Stir the parmesan cheese in, and serve.
Pasta alla Vodka
Again, this is richer, but I feel like it can get year round play. In the summer use your fresh basil if you have it. In the winter, that store bought fresh basil will still remind you of summer. Dried (I’ve used around a tablespoon) works as well, but make sure to add it when combining the onions and vodka. I also like this because you’re using less cream and vodka while still getting a lot of wonderful flavor.
1 pound pasta, shape of your choice (Feeling traditional? Go with penne.)
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large can of diced tomatoes (28 ounces), drained of most juice. Do the can lid holding in the contents, tip over sink trick. You don’t want to thoroughly drain the can by using the strainer method.
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (see note)*
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy or light cream
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
10 basil leaves, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
Prep ahead version 1:
Prep ahead version 2:
Make the entire sauce, except for adding basil, parmesan, salt and pepper. You can even freeze this for much later or make a large batch for multiple meals. This sauce is also yummy in baked pasta and over ravioli or tortellini.
Sweat the onions over medium heat in olive oil until translucent, making sure that the onions take on little to no color. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and continue to cook for an additional minute. Add the drained tomatoes and the vodka, and simmer over low for 15 minutes. Take the sauce off the burner, and allow to cool before pureeing the mixture with an immersion or standard blender. Return to pan (if necessary) and put back on low heat. Stir in the cream and keep on a very low simmer until your pasta is cooked. When the pasta is done, slice and add the basil. Add the pasta and the parmesan cheese to the sauce, and toss to coat. Salt and pepper to taste, and you’re done!
* A note about cheese. Please do not use dried parmesan cheese for these dishes. I’m looking at you Kraft stuff that doesn’t come refrigerated. The taste is fine for a finished product, but in the recipe it will just not come out right. You will notice the difference. It will not be as creamy, and the flavor just won’t be there for you. You’ll also want to try to avoid most shredded varieties you find in the dairy case. I’ve used Sargento with success, but if your supermarket offers BelGioioso parmesan cheese, that is a good one. Or look for a product that is pre-grated in store, and usually found around the deli or fancy pants cheese displays.