Tag Archives: pasta

Mexican Pasta Bake

26 Apr

Casseroles are an ever-popular dinner choice for busy people, not to mention great for bringing to new mommies and new neighbors.  It wasn’t until I moved to the midwest that I realized how prominent a role The Casserole enjoys around here.  I now have many favorites, ranging from breakfast bakes and brunch bakes to dinner bakes.

Here’s a sassy twist on casseroles.  We’re kickin’ it up with a Mexican Pasta Bake.

Mexican Pasta 2

This is such a fun change of scenery in the realm of pasta bakes!  My family loves taco nights, when we have a tempting spread of various goodies to fill our tacos with.  This Mexican pasta bake is almost like a taco in casserole form.  All the lively spices are seamlessly paired with pasta and baked to aromatic perfection!

Mexican Pasta

So, I totally realize we’re not talking authentic Mexican fare at this moment.  Hubby and I spent most of our lives in LA, and this really wouldn’t be found on any Mexican menu 😉  But this yummy dish is SUCH a super tasty way to change up your usual pasta bake routine!

Mexican Pasta 3

Ground beef or turkey, taco seasoning, salsa, and cheese…you just can’t go wrong.  I made mine with whole grain penne, but feel free to use any pasta you like.  Rotini, Corkscrew, or Mafalda… have fun with it.  Enjoy!


RECIPE for Mexican Pasta Bake (8 servings)


2 TB olive oil
1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 (1.25 oz) envelope taco seasoning
1 jar (about 15-20 oz) mild chunky salsa
1 small chopped and seeded green pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
12 oz uncooked pasta of choice
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided
1/2 cup light sour cream
chopped cilantro for garnish


Cook pasta in well-salted water to al dente only.  Drain (don’t rinse) and set aside.

In large heavy skillet, brown ground meat over medium heat.  Drain if needed.  Stir in taco seasoning, salsa, green pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano.  Bring to boil, stirring. Immediately remove from heat.

Meanwhile, combine cooked pasta with 1 cup of the cheese and sour cream and mix well.  Spoon into a greased 2-qt baking dish.  Top with the meat mixture and remaining cheese.

Bake uncovered 350F for 30 minutes.  Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from taste of home

Perfectly Creamy Mac ‘n Cheese

22 Feb

For many, mac ‘n cheese means warmth and comfort.  Many of us grew up on mac ‘n cheese and can recall random stories that involve this family friendly pasta dish.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 2

Back in junior high, I would come home famished, and cook myself some stovetop shells and cheese of the Velveeta variety.  That was my after-school snack.  Then, I’d venture on to eat a normal dinner later.  Those were the days.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 3

Now that I’m all grown up, I’ve worked through what feels like a mountain of homemade mac ‘n cheese recipes, hoping to capture that rich and creamy texture using fresh ingredients.  No ingredients I can’t pronounce, please.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese

Needless to say, I’ve had my share of hits and misses.  One solid recipe almost made it to post-worthy status, but it was a teensy grainy, so it didn’t make the cut.  Another popular recipe was great right out of the oven, but the leftovers were kind of clumpy.

You know I’m here to share “the one.”  The one mac ‘n cheese made with whole ingredients that is worthy enough to have its own post.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 4

This mac ‘n cheese is perfectly creamy, rich, superbly cheesy, and big on flavor.  It’s fabulous right out of the oven, and it manages to reheat surprisingly well.  Sharp white cheddar makes all the difference, with its super creamy texture.  Pecorino Romano puts this dish over the top.  It’s deliciously pungent, and lends toothsome flavor to the cheese sauce.  Grate your own fresh cheeses, as it makes a difference in the texture too.

With more winter days lying ahead, it’s the perfect time to make the perfect mac ‘n cheese.  Round your people up for a warming, comforting, satisfying meal.  Enjoy!


RECIPE (12 servings)

6 TB regular butter
5 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 1/2 (18 oz) cups freshly grated sharp white cheddar
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1 lb elbow macaroni pasta


Heat oven to 375F with rack in middle position.  Grease a large casserole dish and set aside.

Fill large pot with salted water.  Bring to boil, add macaroni and cook 2 minutes fewer than the package states for al dente.  You want the pasta just under al dente (outside of pasta cooked and inside is a bit underdone.)  Transfer cooked macaroni to colander, rinse well, and set aside to drain.

In saucepan, heat milk until hot and set aside.  In large pot, melt 6 TB butter over medium heat.  When butter starts bubbling, add flour and cook 1-2 minutes, constantly stirring.

Add hot milk into flour-butter mixture, whisking constantly.  Continue cooking and whisking on medium heat until mixture bubbles and becomes thick, about 10 min.

Turn heat off.  Stir in garlic and onion powder, nutmeg, black pepper, dry mustard, and cayenne pepper.  Add 3 cups of the white cheddar and 1 cup of the Pecorino Romano.  Mix thoroughly until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.

Add cooked macaroni into cheese sauce and stir to combine well.  Pour mixture into greased casserole dish, distributing evenly.  Sprinkle top with remaining 1 1/2 cups white cheddar and 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano.  (To add breadcrumbs, see note below.)  Bake until top is golden brown, about 30 min.  If needed, broil a minute or two until desired browning.  Let casserole cool about 5 minutes and serve.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Note:  I didn’t use breadcrumbs for this recipe by preference.  If you want to include chunky bread crumbs:  Cube 6 slices of good quality (crust removed) bread into 1/4 in. pieces.  Place pieces in bowl and mix with 2 TB melted butter and toss well. Scatter breadcrumbs over top of casserole right before baking. 

Homestyle Chicken Chow Mein Noodles

14 Jan

Chow mein is one of those popular staples at any Chinese restaurant.  But…just like no two burger joints make a burger exactly the same way, every restaurant does their chow mein a little bit differently.

Homestyle Chicken Chow Mein

We’re a family that’s fond of all things pasta, so we’ll happily nosh on most varieties of chow mein.  Thin noodles, thick noodles, noodles galore.  It’s all good, as long as the “chow mein” is actually comprised of said noodles, and not a mountain of sprouts and crunchy stick things.

Homestyle Chicken Chow Mein 2

Of course, most dear to my heart is the homestyle variety… the kind of Chicken Chow Mein noodles my parents would make at home.  The kind I often throw together in my own kitchen and my kids devour.  The kind that quickly gets chowed down if taken to potlucks.

Homestyle Chicken Chow Mein 3

This homestyle chicken chow mein is chock full of chewy noodles, julienned carrots, broccoli florets, mushrooms, and chicken.  All good things, embellished with garlic and savory flavors.  Use whatever veggies and protein you like, and you’ll have a dish you love.

Homestyle Chicken Chow Mein 4

Try it and you’ll quite possibly never look at Chinese take-out chow mein the same again.  It’s super easy to cook up and reheats really well.   And…add those crunchy sticks if you must 🙂  Enjoy!


RECIPE (makes 4-6 main dish servings)


Peanut or light olive oil
6 garlic cloves, chopped and divided
1 head fresh broccoli florets, cut to bite size
1 cup carrots, peeled and julienned
8oz button or rehydrated Shitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
14.5 oz dried spaghetti
Asian oyster sauce
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Optional:  Chopped scallions or cilantro for garnish

For the Chicken Mixture:
1 lb chicken breast, skinless and boneless
3 TB rice cooking wine (not vinegar)
3 TB regular soy sauce (not light)
1 TB Asian pure sesame oil, typically brown in color
2 TB sugar
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced


Do Ahead:  Dry chicken breasts and cut into bite size pieces.  Mix chicken with all of Chicken Mixture ingredients, making sure all chicken pieces are in contact with marinade.  Marinade at least 2 hours or overnight.

Start boiling a large pot of salted water for the pasta.

Heat 2 TB oil in large heavy skillet or wok.  Cook chicken with marinade until chicken is no longer pink in center.  Do not overcook.  Transfer cooked chicken with juices to a large bowl and set aside.

In same skillet/wok, heat 2 TB oil and cook half of the chopped garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add broccoli florets and julienned carrots.  Cook on medium high until just tender, adding dashes of water as needed to keep veggies from drying out.  Add 2 tsp kosher salt,  1 TB oyster sauce, and 1/2 tsp black pepper.  Stir fry another minute.  Add sliced mushrooms and cook just until soft.  Transfer veggies to the bowl with cooked chicken.

Cook spaghetti noodles just until al dente – not more.  Drain in colander; don’t rinse.  Heat 3 TB oil in large pot or wok with rest of chopped garlic, cooking just until fragrant.  Add back the cooked noodles.  Add 2 T Asian sesame oil and 4 TB oyster sauce.  Stir fry the noodles on medium about 3 minutes (easier with chopsticks.)  Add salt/pepper to taste, if needed.

Stir in desired amount of cooked veggies/chicken mixture with juices (use all of it, or save some to go with rice the next day.)  Stir fry thoroughly a few more minutes, until well incorporated.

Garnish with chopped scallions or cilantro if desired.  Serve warm.

Source:  Chew Out Loud

Chicken Florentine Pesto Pasta

10 Jan

Chicken Florentine Pesto Pasta.  That’s a mouthful. 🙂  But don’t let the lengthy moniker fool you.  This tasty pasta dish is deliciously simple.  Bonus:  it’s good for you!

Chicken Florentine Pesto Pasta

Chicken Florentine Pesto Pasta boasts players like chicken breast, garlic, spinach, and pesto.  We love making easy homemade pesto, which tastes fresh and super delish.  You’ll love making your own pesto, which also stores well in the fridge.  I haven’t tried store bought pesto, but it’ll probably work in a pinch.

Chicken Florentine Pesto Pasta 2

This Chicken Florentine pasta dish is light and perfect for keeping up all those healthy New Year resolutions.  What this dish isn’t light on is flavor.  It is absolutely savory and yummy.  My family loves this pasta, and my 3 year old actually chomps away happily at the spinach!  (Now, if I can get the older siblings to do the same.)

Chicken Florentine Pesto Pasta 3

Serve up this pasta with a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc, and you’ve got a fabulous dinner!  Make it a delicious weeknight supper for the family or weekend dinner with guests.  Either way, this Chicken Florentine Pasta is phenomenal.  Enjoy!


RECIPE (6-8)


16 oz dried penne pasta
4 chicken breast pieces (about 1 1/2 lbs total)
kosher salt and table salt
freshly cracked black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup crisp white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
9-10 oz bag of fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup prepared pesto
1 cup freshly grated parmesan


Boil a large pot of well-salted water.  Cook penne until al dente.  Drain (don’t rinse.)  Toss drained penne with some olive oil to prevent sticking.  Keep warm.

While pasta is preparing, make the chicken:  Put cling wrap over each piece of chicken on a cutting board.  Pound each piece evenly thin (about 1/4 inch thickness.)  Sprinkle each chicken piece lightly and evenly with kosher salt and pepper, on both sides.  Heat 2 TB of olive oil in a large skillet and brown two of the chicken breasts on both sides over medium high heat.  Cook just until chicken is cooked through; about 2-3 minutes per side, depending on how cold and thick the chicken is.  Repeat with remaining pieces.  Slice chicken breasts into strips and set aside.

Put chopped onion and garlic into skillet with 2 TB oil.  Saute 2-3 minutes until fragrant.  Add the white wine and 1/2 tsp table salt.  Boil vigorously until liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

Add fresh spinach and saute on medium-low, stirring often, just until spinach begins wilting.  Turn heat to low.  Add cooked chicken, cream, and pesto, stirring to combine and warm up, about 1 min.  Remove from heat.

In a large serving bowl or dish, combine cooked penne with the chicken/spinach mixture.  Season with more kosher salt and pepper to taste.  Mix in fresh parmesan, reserving some for garnish.  Serve immediately.

Wine Pairing Note:  This pasta dish is perfect with a crisp, light Sauvignon Blanc

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Simply Recipes 

Easy Cheesy Ravioli Bake

23 Oct Cheesy Ravioli with meat sauce

If your household is anything like mine, there is a hectic quality to weeknights that can leave little time for cooking.  Between Hubby, myself, and the kids…somebody is either coming or going.  Those few hours after work or school can equal time crunch.

Easy yet tasty recipes are coveted on tightly scheduled weeknights.  As rushed as it can get, we all still appreciate something yummy to sit down to at dinner time.

Cheesy Ravioli with meat sauce

Between the kids’ sports and homework, what’s a girl to do for dinner?  Answer:  Easy, Cheesy Ravioli Bake.  YUM.  This dish single-handedly converted my kids into ravioli fans.  I usually whip up a hearty meat sauce using ground turkey or beef for this casserole.  You can easily make this meatless by, well,  omitting the meat 🙂

Cheesy Ravioli with meat sauce

It’s amazing that frozen ravioli can be so easily transformed into this hearty and tasty dish, happily packed with tomato sauce, various cheeses, and chunky ground meat.  It’s an entire meal in one dish.  And it tastes like you spent a long time at the stove.

Cheesy Ravioli with meat sauce

The aroma of this bubbly ravioli bake will momentarily divert everyone away from their activities.  “What’s that cooking in the oven?”  Yes, they will answer the call to fulfill that hunger for a delicious, hot meal at the table.

Cheesy Ravioli with meat sauce

As usual, here’s my favorite part:  this casserole is easily assembled the night before!  YES.  I am a major proponent of anything that can be prepped the night before.  Assemble it at night, put it in the fridge, and bake it up right before serving dinner.  Of course, you can just do it all the same day too.  Either way, you’ll want to keep this recipe in your rotation of simply fantastic recipes that can be whipped up in under an hour.  Leftovers make for an awesome lunch the next day!  Enjoy.

RECIPE (one 9×11 dish)


2 lbs ground beef or turkey
1 package (25 ounce) frozen cheese ravioli
1 can/jar (26 oz) Hunts Premium pasta sauce
1 (28 oz) plain (not salted) diced tomatoes, juices reserved
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
2 tsp dried oregano
1 TB freshly ground black pepper
1 TB garlic powder
1 TB onion powder
1 TB white sugar
Freshly grated Parmesan for topping


Cook ground meat in large heavy pot over medium high heat.  Stir and break up pieces until cooked through.  Drain any excess grease.  Turn heat off.

Add pasta sauce and diced tomatoes with juices to the pot.  Add oregano, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and sugar.  Stir to incorporate well.

Spread 1/3 of the meat sauce evenly onto the bottom of a 9×11 baking dish.  Arrange 1/2 of the frozen ravioli over the sauce.  Spread 1/2 of mozzarella and 1/2 of Colby cheeses over the ravioli.  Repeat layers.  You should end with last 1/3 of the sauce on top.  Sprinkle top evenly with Parmesan.

If using right away, cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake at 450F for 50-60 minutes, or until ravioli is tender.

If not using right away, cover tightly with foil and place in fridge.  When ready to use, loosen foil and bake at 450F for 30 minutes.

Source: Chewoutloud

Note:  I like to add frozen chopped spinach to this casserole.  It’s delicious and adds veggie power!  Just be sure it’s defrosted and squeeze out all water before layering it on. 

Chunky Pasta Bolognese with Sausage

19 Oct Pasta Bolognese

For some reason, we’ve been doing more pasta recently.  Maybe it’s the cooler fall weather.  Or perhaps it’s just the call of carbs.  Knowing my hubby and boys have an affinity for Pasta Bolognese, I opted to make a delish chunky version.  The chunks of meat and tomatoes in the sauce feel substantial.  The noodles definitely curb any carb crave.

If you’ve read a few of my previous posts, you already know I adore my Cooks Illustrated.  The Test Kitchen does not skimp or mess around.  Sure, I will pad around the kitchen attempting anything ranging from Daddy’s home style grub to Thomas Keller’s creations.  Yet Cooks Illustrated has a special space in my collection of recipes, because I know it’s gonna be good.

Pasta Bolognese with Sausage

Take this classic Pasta Bolognese.  Such amazingly deep, complex flavors!  This is not to be mistaken for “red sauce with meat.”  Oh, no.  This is a delightful savory experience that comes only with the right ingredients and a patient simmering.  Three hours of low simmering, to be precise.  I think I even went a bit longer.  So plan to give this baby some time.  The weekend is a perfect time to make this dish.  Once you have it all in the pot, you can walk away.  Let the sauce do its low-simmer thing.  Dress it up or down, and it can go from casual family meal to dinner-guest material.

Pasta Bolognese

Bolognese.  Try saying it with a robust Italian accent.  I love the word Bolognese, just because it’s one of those fun-to-say words.  If you make this dish, you could find yourself happily stirring and chanting the word.  Or at least thinking it in your head 🙂

I used fresh sausage, casings removed, for my choice of ground meat.  You can use 85% lean ground beef or a mixture of ground meats, such as a mixture of beef/pork/veal.  My family and I really prefer the ground sausage because it imparts a robust flavor into the sauce.

Pasta Bolognese

Oh!  Can’t forget the best part… the sauce freezes well.  I double the sauce and freeze half of it in an airtight container.  Then, on a busy weeknight, all you have to do is boil some pasta and defrost your Bolognese sauce.  Dinner is served, and it is oh-so-good!  Enjoy this.

RECIPE (4-6 servings)


5 TB regular butter
2-3 TB finely chopped onion
2-3 TB minced carrots
2-3 TB minced celery
4 cloves garlic, chopped
12 ounces ground meat of your choice (I use sausage, casings removed)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup Italian red wine, such as Sangiovese
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, with juices reserved and tomatoes chopped fine
1-2 bay leaves
1 lb pasta of your choice
freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste


Melt 3 Tb butter in Dutch oven or a heavy large pot, over medium heat.  Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook 5-7 minutes until softened.  If not using sausage, mix about 1/2 tsp salt into ground meat before adding it to the pot.  Add meat to pot and cook, breaking up large pieces of ground meat with wooden spoon, until cooked through.

Stir in whole milk.  Bring to simmer.  Cook for 10-15 minutes.  Stir in wine, bring back to simmer, and cook another 10-15 minutes.  Stir in chopped tomatoes, tomato juices, and bay leaves.  Bring to simmer again.  Once it is back to a good simmer, reduce heat even lower so that sauce is just barely simmering, with occasional bubble or two at surface.  Let sauce barely simmer, uncovered, for about 3 hours.  Stir only occasionally.

Once sauce finishes simmering, it should appear visibly reduced.  At this point, skim excess oil off the top of sauce.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Bring generously-salted water to boil in a large pot.  Cook pasta until al dente, and reserve 1/2 cup or more  of the pasta water.  Drain rest of the water and return pasta to the pot.  Add Bolognese sauce and the remaining 2 TB of butter to the pasta, tossing to combine.  Add some pasta water as needed, to desired consistency.  Serve warm, topping plates with freshly shredded Parmesan.

by Chewoutloud, adapted from Cooks Illustrated cookbook

Wine Pairing Note:  Pasta Bolognese goes beautifully with a light, bright Italian red, such as Sangiovese or Chianti.

Basil ‘n Lemon Pesto

10 Oct Basil Pesto

My beloved basil plants have just completed their season here.  If you’re lucky enough to grow herbs in a climate where it’s still warm, you’re probably not seeing the sad demise of your plants.  Alas, mine are pretty much seeing the end of their days.  I salvaged what was left of my basil plants, brought them indoors, and stuck them in water until I could figure out what to do with them.  I thought about blanching and freezing the leaves.  Or drying them for future use.  In the end, I decided to whip up a batch of pesto, which I know will keep in the fridge awhile and comes in handy for all those weeknight meals.

Basil Pesto

We usually have fresh lemons around, so we make lemon-basil pesto.  It is so refreshing, and gives the pesto that perfect lemony tang.  If you prefer plain basil pesto, just omit the lemon.

Basil Pesto

Pack in those basil leaves.  Goodbye, garden, until next spring!

Basil Pesto

Of course, good extra virgin olive oil.

Basil Pesto

Voila!  That’s it!  Now we’ve got a nice reserve of beautiful pesto, ready to go when needed.

Basil Pesto

Pesto is awesome in so many pasta and chicken dishes.  It’s supposed to be good in some fish recipes, too.   I used to avoid pesto, for some reason.  I suppose I thought it was greasy…probably from less-than-ideal  restaurant experiences.  What a difference when you make it yourself!  Pesto is actually pretty healthy when I get to put in my own fresh ingredients.

Basil Pesto

No need to ever buy jarred pesto sauce.  A little goes a long way, and this keeps nicely in fridge awhile.  I am generous with the salt in my pesto, because once it marries with all that pasta, the richness of the sauce thins out and becomes lighter.

The great thing about pesto is how versatile and flexible it is.  If you don’t want to use pine nuts, other nuts can often work nicely.  Sunflower seeds are a decent alternative, if you’re allergic to nuts.  You can make it more or less garlicky, depending on how much close social contact you’re expecting to have in the next 24 hours 😉  If you’d like the color to be greener, simply add some flat leaf parsley to the mix.

Here’s our favorite basic (and easy!) pesto recipe.  Enjoy!

RECIPE (makes 1 to 1 1/2 cups)


2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
3-5 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
zest and juice of 1 small lemon (or half of a large lemon)
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (only add upon serving)


Put basil, garlic, and nuts in food processor and pulse several times until chopped.  Add olive oil and lemon zest with juice.  Process until smooth and well blended.  Transfer pesto to large bowl and season with kosher salt and fresh pepper, to taste.

If using immediately, add in Parmesan cheese and mix together well.

If saving for future use, just transfer pesto to airtight container (if desired, divide into 2 separate containers) and drizzle with bit of oil on top or place cling wrap directly on pesto to seal out air.  Simply thaw and mix in the Parmesan cheese when you want to serve it up!

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Zucchini

16 Aug Chicken Zucchini Fettuccine Alfredo 5

My family, like many others, loves pasta.  I like mixing things up when it comes to pasta, as a fun way for the kids to get used to eating different ingredients (aka vegetables).  Fettuccine Alfredo is one of those comfort foods we all want to eat more of, but it tends to be heavy – with a bit of a healthier spin, we can feel good about indulging in this creamy yet lighter version!

Chicken Zucchini Fettuccine Alfredo

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Zucchini – healthier and tasty!

Many versions of Fettuccine Alfredo include lots of butter, heavy cream, and even cream cheese.  Yeah, OK, we love that stuff too.   You know I indulge in my fair share of butter and cream.  But for this particular pasta dish, it’s SO easy to pare down the fat and get fantastic flavor with plenty of creaminess.  Why not??

Chicken Zucchini Fettuccine Alfredo 5

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo – Lighter and absolutely YUM

By using milk instead of the heavy cream and butter, we keep the creaminess of the Alfredo with less guilt.  Adding seasoned chicken breast and freshly sliced zucchini gives the dish a healthy boost of veggies and protein, with flavors that complement each other beautifully.  In fact, if you want to make it a meatless dish, just omit the chicken and add more veggies.

chicken zucchini fettuccine alfredo

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Zucchini – weeknight supper or weekend with guests

This Fettuccine Alfredo, like most, is best served immediately after cooking.  Make sure to go al dente on the pasta, as it continues to cook a bit after it is drained.  You probably already know this, but just in case – be sure not to rinse cooked pasta with cold water.  When cooked pasta gets rinsed with water, the pasta loses its absorbent starchy exterior, and sauces will not cling to the pasta well.  The best method is to always cook pasta in salted water to al dente and drain immediately.  Then add sauce to it while it’s still hot.  Mmmmm!

Chicken Zucchini Fettuccine Alfredo 2

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Zucchini – goes beautifully with a crisp white wine

This chicken fettuccine alfredo with zucchini is awesome dressed up or down.  It makes a quick, fantastic weeknight meal if you prep some steps ahead of time.  It is also delicious and pretty enough for dinner guests on the weekend.  The farmer’s markets are full of fresh zucchini and basil right now, so it’s a perfect time to indulge!



4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 green zucchini, sliced
1 yellow zucchini, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
5 TB extra virgin olive oil
12 oz fettuccine
1 TB + 1 tsp flour
2 cups milk (whole or 2%)
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling on top
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup salted boiling water, reserved after pasta is drained
coarse kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
garlic powder


To saute zucchini, heat 2 TB olive oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add half of the chopped garlic, and cook until fragrant.  Add zucchini, stirring frequently, and cook until just tender.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste.  Saute another minute.  Set aside and keep warm.

Pound chicken breasts to even thinness.  Do this 1 at a time, on cutting board, covering chicken with cling wrap to prevent a mess.  Generously sprinkle chicken on both sides with kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Heat 2 TB oil in large skillet over medium high.  Pan fry chicken 2 pieces at a time, until just cooked – about 2 min/side, depending on thickness.  Take care not to overcook, or chicken will be tough.  Remove from heat, and let sit 3 minutes.  Cut chicken into strips and keep warm.

Begin boiling large pot of salted water while you make the sauce.

For the sauce:  Mix milk and flour in bowl.  Saute remaining chopped garlic in 1 TB oil in skillet over medium high for 30 seconds.  Add milk mixture and bring to boil while stirring.  Reduce heat to low and stir for a few more minutes.  Add parmesan cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn heat off and keep covered.

Cook fettuccine in boiling water to al dente.  Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, and drain the rest.  Do not rinse pasta.  Put drained pasta back into large pot and toss with sauce, zucchini, and chicken.  Add as much reserved pasta water as needed until desired consistency.  Gently toss in fresh chopped basil.  Serve immediately, sprinkling with additional parmesan.

Wine Pairing Note:  This pasta dish goes well with a Crisp (non-oaked) Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.

Adapted from Food Network Magazine

Chicken Marsala

25 Jun

We love our Chicken Marsala.  I used to order it when dining out, but now it’s more fun and satisfying to cook up in the little kitchen.  This one never disappoints.  It’s on the healthier side if you can spare some butter, yet doesn’t skimp on big flavor.  It’s awesome as both a tasty family meal as well as a dish that’s worthy of dinner guests.  This Chicken Marsala features a tangy Marsala sauce poured over tender chicken fillets, flanked by cremini mushrooms, garlic, and shallots.  YUM!

Cremini mushrooms & shallots

Cremini mushrooms, or baby portabella, and shallots

All dressed up for company

I like to serve with buttered pasta, garlic sauteed spinach, and freshly grated Parmesan liberally sprinkled over entire dish. The Marsala sauce is poured over entire thing, seeping into the pasta.

Bless your chicken fillet with tons of Marsala sauce over it!  It’s super tasty over garlic-sauteed spinach and buttered pasta.  Pour that sauce over everything, and lay on the freshly grated parmesan!  Double, triple yummy goodness!

RECIPE (serves 4-6)

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken tenderloin fillets
1 cup flour
1 TB salt
1 TB garlic powder
2 tsp pepper
8-10 TB butter
2 cups cremini (mini portabella) mushrooms, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cup DRY Marsala wine
1 cup chicken stock
Olive oil for pan frying

Mix together flour, salt, garlic powder, and pepper.  Set aside.

Melt 2-3 TB butter in large skillet.  Saute garlic and shallots until soft.  Add mushrooms and cook until soft.  Remove from pan and set aside (can keep in oven under “warm” setting)

Pour wine, chicken stock,  and 2 TB butter into skillet and boil until sauce is reduced by half.  Time will vary, depending on your skillet, but eyeball it the best you can.  Depending on how salty your chicken stock was, now you can add salt to taste, once your sauce is finished reducing.  Set sauce aside and keep warm.

Dry chicken fillets with paper towel.  Put pieces on cutting board, cover with cling wrap, and lightly pound them to about 1/3 in. thickness.  Dust each fillet with flour mixture, shaking off excess.  Melt 2 TB butter and 2 TB oil in large skillet.  Fry chicken fillets on medium heat for 2-3 minutes per side (or just until golden brown).  Repeat, working in batches until all chicken is done.  Remember not to overcrowd that pan, or your chicken ends up getting steamed rather than nicely browned.

Place chicken into serving dish or plates, or over buttered pasta (I like angel hair).  Spoon mushroom mixture over chicken.  Pour Marsala sauce generously over entire dish.  If pasta is on the dish, make sure it gets sauce over it too.  Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan.

Source:  Chew Out Loud

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