Category Archives: Pasta

Emeril’s Butternut Squash Lasagna with Italian Sausage and Sage: One-Pot Wonderful

There are those meals you select knowing you are going to put extra effort into it.  You buy the freshest ingredients, dedicate a chunk of time to fuss over it, accept no substitutions, no excuses, you go all-out.  Emeril‘s Butternut Squash Lasagna with Italian Sausage and Sage is one of those planned indulgences.  I invited my cooking buddy over to indulge with me and we got started at 3:00 for a 6:30 dinner.  Don’t let the time investment dampen your enthusiasm for trying this dish; it is worth every minute, besides new recipes always take longer.

I like butternut squash prepared savory rather than sweet, so this recipe was especially appealing to me. Tender squash seasoned with fresh marjoram, thyme, and bay leaf, accompanied by Honeycrisp apple, fennel, and onion. Fennel sausage, fresh sage leaves and toasted hazelnuts join the mix, rounding out flavors and imparting a hearty texture.  Oh, and it is lasagna, so ricotta, mascarpone, mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano set the stage for a sensational dinner.

When you pick up a copy of Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders for yourself, mark page 76 for a cold fall afternoon and invite a small army of friends over for dinner.  I had to split this between two pans, the smaller of the two went directly to the freezer and we still had 8-10 servings.

Everyone loved it, each of us trying to describe our delight at the same time. Our daughter said, “This tastes like fall. It’s a little sweet, but then it’s not.” She was right, every bite was a nuance of engaging flavors. By the time we finished dinner, we finally agreed on a single word to describe it–delicious!

Click on the Photo for Order Info

Emeril’s Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders is now available!  Butternut Squash Lasagna with Italian Sausage and Sage and more than 130 other delectable recipes are compiled in this great cookbook.  Just click on the link or the photo to order yours and start enjoying them today.

Disclosure: For my participation in The Secret Ingredient’s One-Pot Blogger Cooking Party, I received a copy of Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders, a jar of Emeril’s Essence seasoning, and a set of Emeril – by zak! Table Art 7-piece. Once the party concludes, upon my successful completion, I will receive a $50 grocery reimbursement and a set of Emeril’s cookbooks.

Grilled Sea Scallops With Pasta Rags and Homemade Pesto: Test Kitchen Tuesday

Each week as I review scores of recipes for Test Kitchen Tuesday, I am reminded of the endless possibilities in the culinary world—flavors, textures, temperatures, all waiting to be explored.  Like any great adventure, disappointment and thrill are part of the risk and reward.  Last week, the Tuscan Garlic Chicken Pasta was a disappointment. However, summer is the perfect time to make basil pesto and grill fish, so my hope is this week will be in the thrill category.  I will substitute cod in this dish as well as gluten-free pasta, since I already have it on hand. Though not as briny as scallops, cod should be a satisfactory choice—we shall see!

I hope you join me in this delicious adventure!

In the next week or so:

1.  Make the recipe (posted below)
2.  Leave a comment describing your experience, opinion, adjustments, or suggestions.
3.  Subscribe to comments so you can see what others have done.
4.  If you are especially proud of your creation, send a photo to savoringtoday@comcast.net, or include a link to your site with your comment.

Grilled Sea Scallops With Pasta Rags and Homemade Pesto

Source: Emeril Lagasse
Serves 4-6
1      pound  fresh pasta sheets
3      tablespoons  olive oil — plus
1      cup  olive oil
Salt — to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper — to taste
2      cups  fresh basil leaves – (packed)
1/2     cup  pine nuts — toasted
2       teaspoons  chopped garlic
1/4     cup  grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
24     fresh sea scallops — cleaned
1       pint  tear or pear tomatoes, red or yellow
1       pound  fresh asparagus — blanched
1       pound  fresh chanterelle mushrooms — cleaned

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Tear the pasta into 1-inch pieces.  Drizzle a little olive oil into the water and add the pasta.  Cook until tender, about 4 to 6 minutes.  Remove from the water and drain.

In a mixing bowl, toss the pasta with a tablespoon of the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In an electric blender, combine the basil, nuts, garlic and cheese.  Blend thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper.  With the blender running, slowly drizzle in 1 cup of the oil.  The mixture will be thick.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Preheat the grill.  Season the scallops with a tablespoon of the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place the scallops on the grill and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until the scallops are firm to the touch.

In a sauté pan, over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of the oil.  When the oil is hot, add the tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sauté for 2 minutes.  Add the asparagus and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper.  Continue to sauté for 3 to 4 minutes or until the mushrooms are wilted.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the pasta with the vegetables and pesto.  Mix well.  Add the cheese and mix well.  Readjust the seasonings if needed.  Mound the pasta in the center of each serving plate.  Lay the scallops over the pasta.  Garnish with parsley.

Tuscan Garlic Chicken Pasta: Test Kitchen Tuesday

This is one of those recipes I have had tucked away for a long time–anything with six cloves of garlic has promise, right.  Pasta dishes are ideal for a quick weeknight meal, use Tinkyada brown rice pasta and it’s gluten-free too. Basil is at its peak right now, available at most farmers markets—I anticipate that is what makes this dish really sing. We shall see!

I hope you join me in this delicious adventure!

In the next week or so:

1.  Make the recipe (posted below)
2.  Leave a comment describing your experience, opinion, adjustments, or suggestions.  ♥ If you do focus on altering it to economize, choose healthier ingredients or techniques, make it gluten-free/allergy sensitive, embellish for entertaining, or incorporate into batch/once-a-month cooking, please mention that too.
3.  Subscribe to comments so you can see what others have done.
4.  If you are especially proud of your creation, snap a photo and send it to me at savoringtoday@comcast.net so it can be included in this post, or include a link to your site with your comment.

Tuscan Garlic Chicken Pasta

Source: http://www.cookscountry.com/recipe.asp?recipeids=5444
Serves 4
6       garlic cloves — minced
1/4    teaspoon  red pepper flakes
6       tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
4       boneless, skinless chicken breasts — about 1 1/2 pounds
Salt and pepper
1        pound  penne pasta
1        bag  baby arugula — 5-ounce
1/2     cup  chopped fresh basil leaves
6        tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
1        cup  grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Meanwhile, combine garlic, pepper flakes, and oil in bowl and microwave until garlic is golden and fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Transfer 1 tablespoon oil from bowl with garlic mixture to large skillet and heat over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken and cook until well browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to cutting board and tent with foil. Let rest 5 minutes, then slice thin and set aside.

3. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup cooking water. Drain pasta and return to pot. Stir in sliced chicken, arugula, basil, lemon juice, Parmesan, and remaining garlic mixture, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

NOTE: Microwaving the garlic, pepper flakes, and olive oil until fragrant blooms the flavors and infuses the oil.

Spaghetti Al Farouk: Test Kitchen Tuesday

Simple Italy is a blog that I follow (yes, it does feed my inner Italian) and when this recipe arrived in my inbox this morning, I instantly found inspiration for Test Kitchen Tuesday.  I simply cannot wait to try this dish!  It is no secret that we love Italian food, but Spaghetti Al Farouk is not the usual Italian fare. Curry, ginger, and thyme hint of cuisine farther east of the Abruzzo coastline, which the story behind this dish bears out.

The recipe comes from the newly released cookbook by Domenica Marchetti, The Glorious Pasta of Italy (Chronicle Books, 2011), and though I haven’t had the pleasure of sifting through its pages, this recipe sure makes me want to as soon as possible. Domenica describes this dish in this way, “The platter that came to the table was alive with color—deep yellow from the curry and saffron, and bright orange and red from the shellfish, with splashes of glossy black from the mussel shells. The sauce was rich, spicy, and earthy; the seafood was briny and sweet.”

I hope you join me in this delicious adventure!

In the next week or so:

1.  Make the recipe (posted below)
2.  Leave a comment describing your experience, opinion, adjustments, or suggestions.  ♥ If you do focus on altering it to economize, choose healthier ingredients or techniques, make it gluten-free/allergy sensitive, embellish for entertaining, or incorporate into batch/once-a-month cooking, please mention that too.
3.  Subscribe to comments so you can see what others have done.
4.  If you are especially proud of your creation, snap a photo and send it to me at savoringtoday@comcast.net so it can be included in this post or include a link to your site with your comment

Spaghetti Al Farouk

Recipe Author: Domenica Marchetti
Source: Simple Italy
Serves: 4-6
2      tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
1       tablespoon  unsalted butter
1       large  yellow onion — chopped
large pinch  saffron threads — pounded to a powder (see cook’s note)
1        tablespoon  curry powder — (preferably spicy)
1/2     teaspoon  ground ginger
1/4     teaspoon  minced fresh thyme
1        fresh bay leaf
1/2     teaspoon  kosher or fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4     cup/180 ml dry white wine
1        cup/240 ml heavy/double cream
1        pound/455 g dried spaghetti
12     mussels — well scrubbed and debearded if necessary (see cook’s note)
16      large  shrimp/prawns — peeled and deveined
6       ounces/170 g frozen shelled cooked langoustine tails– (see cook’s note)

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously.

In a frying pan large enough to hold all of the seafood, warm the olive oil and butter over medium heat. When the butter is melted and begins to sizzle, add the onion, and stir to coat with the oil and butter. Sauté, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes, or until the onion is softened but not browned. Stir in the saffron, curry powder, ginger, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and a generous grind of pepper, taking care to incorporate all of the herbs and spices. Stir in the lemon juice, raise the heat to medium-high, and pour in the wine. Let the sauce simmer briskly for about 3 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cream. Bring the sauce back to a very gentle simmer. If the pasta water is not yet boiling, reduce the heat under the sauce to low and wait until the pasta water boils.

Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir to separate the noodles, and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions until al dente. Once the pasta is in the water, proceed with finishing the sauce.

Add the mussels, shrimp/prawns, and langoustine tails to the simmering sauce, cover, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the mussels open, the shrimp/prawns are just cooked through, and the langoustine tails are heated through. Discard any mussels that failed to open.

Drain the pasta into a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup/240ml of the cooking water. If the frying pan is large enough to contain both the pasta and the sauce, add the pasta to the frying pan and gently toss the pasta and sauce to combine thoroughly, adding a splash or two of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce. If the frying pan is not large enough, return the pasta to the pot, add about two-thirds of the sauce, toss to combine thoroughly, and then top with the remaining sauce when serving. Transfer the dressed pasta to a warmed serving bowl or shallow individual bowls. If you are preparing individual servings, be sure to divide the seafood evenly among them. Serve immediately.

Cook’s note: Saffron

Beautiful red-gold saffron threads (zafferano) are the dried stigmas of the purple-striped flowers of the Crocus sativus plant. Saffron from Abruzzo’s Navelli plain is among the best in the world. The spice is sold in two forms, powder and threads. The powder dissolves more easily, but it is also more easily tampered with. To be sure you are getting pure saffron, buy the threads and gently pound them to a powder before using. I use a mortar and pestle for pounding, but you can also press down on the threads with a heavy object, such as the flat side of a meat pounder or mallet.

Cook’s note: Shellfish

Much of the shellfish available these days is farm raised and therefore contains less dirt and grit than shellfish harvested from the wild. To clean mussels, scrub their shells with a stiff brush under cold running water. Discard any that do not close tightly when handled. If the mussels have beards, the fibrous tufts they use to hold on to pilings and rocks, you need to remove them. Using a towel or just bare fingers, grasp the beard gently but firmly and yank it toward the shell’s hinge. This will remove the fibers without tearing the mussel meat.

Frozen langoustine tails lack the flavor of fresh ones, but they are much more readily available and they have a nice, meaty texture that captures the sauce and absorbs its flavor.

Heading to the table -- dining outside makes it that much better!

Memorial Day BBQ Menu & Recipes

Of course, you can throw the usual burgers and brats on the grill, but if you’re feeding more than a handful of people burgers can be dry or cold before your guests get one on a bun.  BBQ Pulled Pork and Pulled Chicken Sandwiches are an ideal choice to feed a crowd.  Easily prepared ahead of time an kept warm in a crockpot for serving gives you more time to attend to guests or other scheduled holiday eventsSee Special Note about Memorial Day below.

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Original recipe by Emeril; Recipe has been altered from original.
Serves 10
1           whole  boneless pork shoulder – (abt 4 lbs)
3 3/4   tablespoons  dark brown sugar
2 1/2    tablespoons  Emeril’s Essence
1 1/4    tablespoons  salt
1 1/4    tablespoons  cumin
1 1/4    tablespoons  paprika
1 1/4    tablespoons  freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4    tablespoons  cayenne
1           bottle  barbecue sauce (Show Me BBQ)
10        hamburger buns
=== WET MOP BASTING SAUCE ===
2 1/2    cups  apple cider vinegar
1 1/4    tablespoons  dark brown sugar
1 1/4    tablespoons  red pepper flakes
1 1/4    tablespoons  freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/4    tablespoons  salt
Place the pork in a baking dish.  In a bowl, combine the sugar, Essence, salt, cumin, paprika, pepper, and cayenne.  Rub the seasoning evenly over the pork to coat.  Cover with plastic and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Wet Mop Basting Sauce:  The night before you cook the pork, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well.  Refrigerate and let the flavors blend overnight.  (Makes 2 1/4 cups)

Preheat an oven or smoker to 225°.  Bring the pork to room temperature and place in a roasting pan, fat-side up.  Slow cook in the oven, basting with the Wet Mop Basting Sauce every hour, until tender and the internal temperature reaches 160°.  (The cooking should take about 6 to 7 hours.)  Remove from the oven and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

With a knife and fork or two forks, pull the meat apart into small slices or chunks.  Toss with the barbecue sauce, to taste, and divide among the hamburger buns.  Top with coleslaw.

BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Serves 6-8
8      whole  chicken thigh — bone-in, skin removed
onion powder
granulated garlic
smoked paprika
sea salt and ground black pepper
1         7″x16″  cedar plank — untreated, designed for grilling
Sauce:
1         large  onion — peeled and quartered
1/4       cup  water
1 1/2    cups  ketchup
1 1/2    cups  apple cider
2        tablespoons  palm coconut sugar or brown sugar
3        tablespoons  Worcestershire sauce
4        tablespoons  Dijon mustard
1/3      cup  molasses
1/2      teaspoon  ground black pepper
4        tablespoons  apple cider vinegar
1         tablespoon  liquid smoke flavoring
1         tablespoon  olive oil
4       medium cloves  garlic — minced
1         tablespoon  chili powder
1/4      teaspoon  cayenne pepper or a splash or two of Chipotle Tobasco

Soak cedar plank in water for an hour or so. Remove skin from chicken thighs. Sprinkle both sides of chicken pieces with onion powder, granulated garlic, paprika, salt and pepper.

On a gas grill, place soaked cedar plank directly over medium heat and allow wood to get hot, 3-5 minutes. Place chicken directly on the cedar plank and cook over medium-low heat (this will depend on the grill, so you may have to adjust the temp to be sure the plank stays hot enough). As chicken cooks, rotate one or two pieces at a time and cook directly on the grill for a few minutes, then back to the plank. This will help the chicken cook through. During the cooking process, the wood plank will char and smoke which is ideal. If the wood should begin to catch fire, simply spray those parts with a little water.

Once the chicken is cooked through, transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and allow to cool until easy to handle. This is the time to make the sauce.

FOR THE SAUCE: Process onion and water in food processor until pureed. Pass mixture through fine-mesh strainer into liquid measuring cup, pressing on solids; this should produce approximately 3/4 cup strained onion juice. Discard solids.

Whisk onion puree, ketchup, apple cider, sugar, Worcestershire, mustard, molasses, pepper, cider vinegar, and liquid smoke together in medium bowl. Heat oil in nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until shimmering; add garlic, chili powder, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in ketchup mixture; increase heat to medium-high, bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, until flavors meld and sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. This will yield approximately 4 cups of sauce.

Remove chicken from the bone with fingers. Remove any gristle, fat, or connective tissue so that only the meat remains. Pull chicken meat apart so that it is in small strips and pieces.

To serve, toss chicken with desired amount of sauce in a separate large skillet or oven dish–add as little or as much sauce as you prefer. Extra sauce can be stored in the refrigerator. Heat chicken with sauce in the skillet over medium-low heat or in the oven at 350° until incorporated and heated through. Serve on whole wheat buns with coleslaw on top.

Baked Beans

Serves 8
1        pound  dry white beans
2        cups  hot water
1/2    pound  bacon — 1/2 cut into 1/4″ slices
1        medium  onion — chopped
1        cup  mild green chilies — chopped
2        cloves  garlic — minced
2        teaspoons  cider vinegar
1        tablespoon  Dijon mustard
2        tablespoons  brown sugar
1/4     cup  molasses
1/2     cup  Show-Me BBQ sauce — or favorite BBQ sauce
1         whole  bay leaf
1/2    teaspoon  black pepper
sea salt — to taste

Rinse and cover dry beans in water and 2 tablespoons of salt, soak overnight or for at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse beans, cover beans with water and cook for 1-2 hours or until beans are tender.

In a skillet, fry the bacon pieces until fat is rendered and bacon is fairly crisp. Remove from skillet and set aside. Saute chopped onion in 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat until caramelized; add garlic and cook until fragrant.

Mix hot water, vinegar, mustard, sugar, molasses, bbq sauce, bay leaf, and pepper in a bowl until well combined. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning as desired.  Mix cooked beans, bacon, onions and garlic, and green chilies in a separate bowl until combined. Once mixed, pour into a large casserole dish and cover with the sauce mix. If needed, add additional water to cover the beans.

Cover and bake in slow oven 325º for 3-4 hours. Add liquid if necessary to keep beans just covered. For the last hour of baking, remove cover to allow sauce to evaporate and thicken, if needed. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Coleslaw

Serves 6-8
3/4    cup  mayonnaise
1/4     cup  Dijon mustard
1/4     cup  packed brown sugar
3        tablespoons  apple cider vinegar
2        tablespoons  buttermilk
2        teaspoons  celery seeds
1/2    teaspoon  salt
1/4     teaspoon  black pepper
3        cups  shredded green cabbage — (about 1/2 head)
3        cups  shredded red cabbage — (about 1/2 head)
1/2     green bell pepper — finely diced
1         large  carrot — peeled and shredded
1/2     cup  grated yellow onion
1/4     cup  minced fresh parsley

In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, buttermilk, celery seeds, salt and pepper; whisk well to dissolve the sugar.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Toss with the dressing until evenly coated.  Adjust seasoning, to taste.  Place in the refrigerator, covered, to chill and meld flavors for at least 1 hour before serving.

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Serves 8-10
1          16-ounce package mini bow tie pasta — cooked and drained
1 1/2   cups  grape tomatoes — halved
1 1/2   cups  zucchini — coarsely chopped
1 1/2   cups  yellow summer squash — coarsely chopped
1          12-ounce jar  artichoke hearts — drained and quartered
1          whole  red pepper — chopped
1          can  sliced black olives — drained
1/2      cup  red onion — chopped fine
1          cup  feta cheese — crumbled
1          cup  Provolone cheese — 1/4″ dice
1/2      cup  fresh basil — chopped
1/2      cup fresh parley — chopped
vinaigrette or Italian dressing — as desired

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Toss with enough dressing to coat well just before serving.

Guacamole

Serves 8
3       medium  avocados — peeled and crushed
1        can  Rotel tomatoes — drained
1/2    cup  cilantro — chopped
1/2    cup  green onion — finely chopped
2        clove  garlic — minced
1/2    teaspoon  sea salt
3        tablespoons  red bell pepper — minced
1         tablespoon  fresh parsley — minced
1/4     teaspoon  onion powder
1/4     teaspoon  crushed red pepper — as desired
2         teaspoons  lime juice

Peel avocados and remove large seed in the center.  Drain Rotel tomatoes.  Chop onions and cilantro.  Mince garlic.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl; stir while smashing the avocados gently, leaving some chunks. Serve with tortilla chips.

Salsa

Serves 8
1/3     yellow onions — chopped fine
1/4     Serrano pepper — chopped fine
1/4     green pepper — chopped fine
1/2     yellow chili pepper, mild — chopped fine
1         clove  garlic — chopped fine
5         Roma tomatoes — coarsely chopped
1/2     bunch cilantro leaves — coarsely chopped
2         teaspoons  lime juice
1/2     teaspoon  salt — to taste

Put garlic, peppers, and onion in food processor and pulse to chop fine. Cut stems off of cilantro just below leaves.  Add tomatoes and cilantro to processor and pulse to chop slowly so that tomatoes do not become too small.

Remove from processor and squeeze fresh lime over mixture, stir well.  Add salt and stir well. Serve with tortilla or pita chips.

NOTES: For hotter flavor use whole Serrano pepper.  For milder flavor use more tomatoes or less peppers.

Magic Cookie Bars

Yields 24  bars
1/2       cup  butter
1 1/2    cups  graham cracker crumbs
1           can  sweetened condensed milk — 14 oz.
2          cups  Ghirardelli double chocolate chips — 12 oz package
1 1/3    cups  flaked coconut
1           cup  chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350° (325° for a glass dish). In a 13×9 inch pan, melt butter in oven.  Sprinkle crumbs over butter; pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumbs.  Layer evenly with remaining ingredients; press down firmly.  Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool.  Chill if desired.  Cut into bars.  Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Posted on the following Blog Hops:
Real Food Whole Health Traditional Tuesdays
The Healthy Home Economist Monday Mania
Hearth & Soul Hop
The Nourishing Gourmet Pennywise Platter Thursday

Special Note

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service.  All holidays are difficult for families who have lost loved ones, but Memorial Day must be especially difficult to process as others plan picnics and backyard parties.  Parades, street fairs, vacation plans coincide with graveside visits.

This is an excerpt from an article featured in The Gazette, What to say to grieving families, and why it’s important to remember, about the grief families experience as they remember those they have lost:

“But after the crowds go home, grief is rarely tidy, say those who have lost a child in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some people inadvertently contribute to the heartache with awkward talk of closure or a tone-deafness about the significance of Memorial Day.”

So what expressions of sympathy are truly helpful?

“The kindest thing you can do is just say, ‘Tell me about him,’ because if you don’t talk, you get sick. I’ve had some terrible times after Jake was killed, but for me, being of service is the way to go. I’d hope Jake would say, ‘I’m proud of you, Pops.'”

Read the full article here.

Alfredo Sauce: A Classic Canvas

Cedar Plank Grilled Chicken over Alfredo Sauce and Penne

Butter, cream, cheese, are all part of this beloved classic sauce.  The interpretations can vary widely, somewhere between bland and flat to overly salty and processed tasting due to fillers in place of real cream.  I avoid ordering Alfredo in restaurants for that reason, never knowing which side of the spectrum to expect.  I like this recipe for its accents of garlic, lemon, and mix of Parmesan and Romano cheeses.  Remarkably easy to prepare at home, this simple sauce creates the perfect canvas for all sorts of enhancements like Cedar Plank Grilled Chicken (as shown), Blackened Salmon,  sautéed shrimp, or roasted vegetables.

Gluten-Free Option: Use any favorite gluten-free pasta as a substitute for wheat pasta, or try Tinkyada brand if you are uncertain which to use.

Alfredo Sauce

Serves 4
6        tablespoons  butter
1        whole  shallot — minced
2        cloves  garlic — minced
1/2     cup  Romano cheese — shredded
1         cup  Parmigiano-Reggiano — shredded
1/2     cup dry white wine
1         tablespoon  lemon juice — freshly squeezed
1         cup  heavy cream
1/2     teaspoon  black pepper — freshly ground
1/4     cup  parsley — chopped fine
1         pound  pasta or gluten-free rice pasta
sea salt — to taste

Cook the pasta in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain in a colander, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté until tender; add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add wine and lemon juice and cook until reduced by half.  Add heavy cream and bring to a simmer or low-boil. Cook until sauce has reduced and thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Season with pepper, to taste. Remove from the heat. (It is best to salt after adding the cheese to avoid over salting.)

Return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in, set over medium-high heat along with 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid (reserve the other 1/4 cup to thin sauce, if needed). Add the butter-cream mixture, half of the Parmesan, all the Romano, and toss to combine thoroughly. (Thin with pasta water if desired.) Salt to taste.

Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

Note: Grilled chicken, sautéed shrimp, blackened salmon, or roasted vegetables can be served on top of the pasta or combined with the sauce just before tossing with the pasta.

Posted on the following Blog Hops:
Hearth & Soul Blog Hop
The Healthy Home Economist Monday Mania
The Nourishing Gourmet Pennywise Platter Thursday
Real Food Whole Health Fresh Bites Friday

Cedar Plank Grilled Chicken

Cedar Plank Grilled Chicken over Alfredo Penne

Grilling is more than an occasional summertime excuse for a party around our house—it is a year-round brave-the-weather habit.  Over the weekend, temperatures hit the 80° mark here in Colorado and my cedar planks were ready for duty. This recipe was used to grill chicken for Chicken Alfredo and it was amazing with its subtly sweet, smoky flavor.  Coastal Cuisine is the brand I have used, but there are many on the market from which to choose.  I like that their cedar is from sustainable forests and the planks can be reused until they are used up. Ordinarily I recommend marinating meat before grilling, but when using wood planks it is best to lightly season so the flavor of the wood comes through.

Boneless, skinless or bone-in chicken are interchangeable for this recipe, simply adjust cooking time as needed.  I like to use bone-in chicken thighs for BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches or boneless, skinless chicken breasts to top salads or pasta dishes as shown in the photo.  Since I am a batch-cooking kind of gal, I rarely light the grill for just one meal.  If a recipe calls for 4 chicken breasts, you may as well cook 12 to get the most out of a chimney full of coals or the 10-minute preheat.  Grilled chicken freezes well, so this is an ideal time to cook a few extra pieces for quick lunches or a midweek meal.

Cedar Plank Grilled Chicken

Serves 4
1            cedar plank — approx. 7″x16″
4            boneless, skinless chicken breast or 8 bone-in thighs
1 1/4     teaspoons  sea salt — per pound of chicken
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper — freshly ground

Lightly pound the thickest part of the chicken breasts with a meat mallet to create an even piece of meat. Salt the chicken liberally with sea salt and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, but no longer than 24 hours. Soak the cedar plank in water for 1-2 hours before grilling.

After brining, season chicken with pepper and drizzle with olive oil (olive oil is not needed for chicken thighs).

On a preheated gas grill, place cedar plank on grill over direct heat. Place chicken breasts directly on the cedar plank and grill over med-low heat with the lid closed. The planks will smoke while cooking, which is ideal, so it is important to keep the lid closed as much as possible.

Check the chicken every 2-3 minutes turning as needed to allow each side of the chicken to make contact with the plank while cooking.  Once the chicken is almost cooked through, remove from the plank (leaving plank on grill) and cook directly on the grill to develop grill marks on the meat.

Serve on top of pasta sauces, salads, or shredded for BBQ chicken sandwiches.

NOTE: The planks can be reused until completely burned up; see package instructions for guidelines.

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