Thursday, January 24, 2008

Creamy Pesto Pasta

Ratings- Me:8
Mr SuperChicken:
Mystery Guest Mike: 8

This will Serve 4- Total Prep and cook time- About 30 minutes.

Ok- I forgot to take a "after" photo for the blog- so we will just have to wait to get to the end to see what it looks like. (you will understand why I was so out of it when you get there)

Here is our cast of players for today.

You will need Salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder (POWDER- not SALT!) (really- this is practically the only seasonings I use on a day to day basis). You will also need Alfredo sauce, Pesto sauce, (I prefer "Classico's" Alfredo- but what ever is on sale is fine- but I refuse to use anything but the pesto they make. it is awesome!). You will also need Pine nuts (more on this later) and not pictured 1 boneless skinless chicken breast (raw please) (mine is defrosting which is why it is not in the photo)

While your chicken is hanging out (or nuking in the microwave to thaw out) you are going to want to "toast" your pine nuts.
About those- We got this HUGE bag from costco for about $10- kinda pricey you think, but when you go to Vons or Ralphs- they sell about 1 1/2 cups in a small bag for $6- so go to costco if you can and you will save a ton.

I really like the soft crunch of the Pine nuts, so I use extra. This is about 2/3 a cup.
You will want to toast them on low to med heat- stirring frequently so they will not burn. This is not step that you want to rush- or walk too far away from. They can go from pale to burnt fast if you ignore them or have the heat too high. Also- the hot oil in them will cause them to keep cooking after they are off the heat- so err on the side of underdone than overdone.
Use a small pan- but try to get one large enough that there is only 1 layer of nuts- it keeps the cooking more even.

*This is just about Right- I didn't stir as much as I should- hence the few dark ones)*

**Random side note: Raw Pine nuts do NOT taste good (to me at least). I popped a few in my mouth as I was cooking later- and they have a strong "juniper" flavor. Nice in Gin, not in nuts. it goes totally away when toasted- but just don't think they are like cashews or anything tasty like that**

When they are done, place them in bowl to cool down. Give them a few stirs in the first few moments to let the hot ones get some cool air and slow down\stop the cooking of the ones trapped at the bottom. **Also Note- these suckers are HOT- snacking right now is not advised- just ask the soft pallate of my mouth to know why**

At This Point- get a big pot of water on the stove and set it to boiling. Do not add salt at this point. It will take longer to boil and can "scar" up the bottom of your pot with a salt "scale-y-ness".

Now take your chicken and cut it up in largish bite-size pieces.

*And remember to wash your hands and cutting board well!*

Sprinkle some salt, pepper, onion and Garlic powder on the chicken, and place back in the pan you just used for the pine nuts. (Less dishes that way!) It will only take about 5 minutes on med\med-high heat to cook the chicken. As it is almost done cooking, take your spoon or spatula and break the chicken into smaller size pieces. (Each one is about cut in half or 3rds if it was a larger piece).

Stop when they are golden. Do not over darken the chicken or it will dry out.

When the chicken is done, toss it in the bowl with the nuts to hang out for a few.

Your water should now be about boiling. Take 2 cups of pasta (you can really use any kind, but I prefer Rigatoni or Penne Rigate for this dish). Add SOME salt to the boiling water, and add the pasta and cook according to package directions. You are going to want this "Al Dente".

When done cooking- place in a strainer and DO NOT RINSE with water. We want the pasta to stay hot, and we want it to dry off a bit. The extra cooking it may get from this is not a big deal.

While the pasta is in the strainer- place 1/2 cup of Alfredo in a cup or bowl. Add to this 2 Tablespoons of the Pesto Sauce (make sure you stir the oil back into the pesto before you measure it out)

Now- this part in open to tastes. I LOVE Alfredo- Mr SuperChicken is not very fond of it- but he likes this dish. So if you like it really creamy- add more. If you like more pesto- add more (but do not use less than 1/2 cup of Alfredo or the pasta will be too dry)

The mix that I go for is more of a "green flecked mayo" look.

**Like This**

Now- Dump the pasta, Pine Nuts, Chicken, and Sauce back into the pasta pot.

Mmmmmmm...... Tasty!
Now usually I would call it good- and serve this in bowls..... but as life would have it- Mr SuperChicken was late- and he called about 5 seconds after this picture was taken to tell me that he was on his way home and a old friend of his was going to come over and join us for dinner.-------yeah------- tossing some pasta out of a pot needed a upgrade FAST. (they were about 10 minutes away)

So I turned on the Oven to 350, and while it was getting warm, I dumped the pasta into a 9x9 pan, and I grabbed a block Parmesan Cheese and my mini-grater. I then grated some cheese over the pasta, and tossed it in the over to keep warm before they got to the house (and ran to comb my hair and do a guest bathroom check)
Here is the end result. :)

When they got to the house, I took it out of the oven, placed it in some bowls, and added some more parm on top (for looks) and served it up with some red wine.
Here is the small catch for that. Right out of the Pot- the pasta will be creamy and soft.

If you place it in the oven or let it sit for some time- the pasta and oil soak into the pasta and you will have more of a "coated" noodle than a creamy mixture. It is not a big deal- we like it both ways, and beyond visual and some texture you cannot tell the difference.

This can be served HOT, Warm, or even chilled. This makes for a GREAT lunch the next day. Right out of the fridge you have a cold, chicken pesto pasta salad, (with tasty pine nut crunch).
I almost prefer this meal cold, and in the summer I will cook it the day before, and serve it the next day as a nice cool dish in the heat of summer nights.

Anyway- I hope you enjoy- and always- if you tried it, changed it, or loved it- let me know :)

Creamy Pesto Pasta

2 Cups dry Pasta
1 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
2/3 (more or less to taste) Pine nuts, Toasted
1/2 Cup Alfredo Sauce
2 Tablespoons Pesto Sauce
Salt, Pepper, Garlic, and Onion Powder

~ Toast the Pine Nuts.
~ Chop Chicken into chunks, season and cook until golden. Break Chicken into smaller pieces.
~ Cook Pasta to "Al Dente" Drain, but do NOT rinse.
~ Mix Pesto and Alfredo together.
~ Mix all items back into Pan. If your sauces were cold- you may need to place back on burner to re-warm the pasta.

If you are pressed to "hold" the dish for tardy eaters- add fresh grated Parmesan cheese and place in pan to cook at 350 for 10 minutes to keep warm. If they are still not there after 10 minutes- turn OFF the oven, but leave in the oven to keep dish warm.
This is also VERY tasty and refreshing cold. Try it on a summer day. :)

1 comment:

cuoca compulsiva said...

Hi, My Name is Barbara alias "Cuocacompulsiva" , and I'm Italian foodblogger. Sorry for my bad english. Compliments for yours blog, but I hope that you will come soon in Italy to taste the true Pesto genovese.


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