Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Pasta Week

When it's FREEZING outside, there's nothing like a hot bowl of pasta to fill up a warm belly. And since it's been either a) below zero or b) snowing incessantly in Chicago lately, I instinctively grabbed a box of Prince Linguini this weekend while I was at the store. However, instead of grabbing a jar of sauce to go-with, I grabbed a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes so that I could make my own sauce, from scratch!

Pasta sauce from scratch was one of my first big culinary adventures. My first couple batches were pretty bland-- kind of yucky, even-- but the more I made it, or perhaps the more I learned about seasoning it, the better it tasted. Olive oil was a good starter... butter helped a bit too, and I can thank Rachael Ray for teaching me the miracle of chicken stock (which she uses almost as frequently and enthusiastically as Paula Deen uses butter). Now I feel proud to be able to crack open a can of crushed tomatoes and throw together a delicious sauce without a recipe or even a measuring cup. Hey, we all have our own little victories.

This week I made two sauces: a red and a white. I used up the can of red on the first one, then, tomato-less, I decided to whip up a little alfredo-cabonara tonight. This is how they turned out:

Lisa's Basic Red Tomato Sauce

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
Several cloves of garlic, minced
Chopped onion or shallots (about 3/4 cup, ish)
2-3 Tbsp Butter
White wine
Oregano, Basil, Parsley
Chili Powder
Salt & Pepper to taste
Shredded parmesan

Heat EVOO and butter in a large frying pan and saute the garlic and onions until the garlic is just slightly golden. Add about a half cup of the white wine-- simmer until it is reduced by about half. Add the can of tomatoes and all the seasonings to taste. I probably added a generous teaspoon of chili powder and it came out pleasantly spicy but not over-the-top. Reduce to a simmer and let it bubble away while you cook your pasta. If you want a thicker sauce, let it simmer longer so more of the liquid cooks off. Serve over pasta and top with parmesan.

Lisa's Basic Alfredo-Cabonara Pasta

2-3 Tbsp butter
Several cloves garlic, minced
About 3/4 cup milk (I used skim and it came out fine)
Basil, oregano, salt, pepper to taste

The rest:
Long pasta
Turkey bacon
1 chicken breast
Shredded parm

The neat trick to this one is to cook everything in the same frying pan-- that way you get the oils and flavors of everything that's been in there infused in everything you cook!

First, fry two strips of turkey bacon in a small frying pan 'til they're extra crispy. When done, set aside on a paper towel. Next, season the chicken breast with salt and pepper (a new tasty thing I tried that works), and cook over a little EVOO in the same frying pan. When done, remove and slice into bite-sized chunks. Next, add a little more EVOO and the butter to the pan, and heat til the butter is melted. Then add the garlic-- saute only until just a touch brown. Immediately add the milk and seasonings-- simmer just a few minutes until the milk has reduced a bit.

While that's happening, cook the pasta-- this will make about one serving, so only use about a half-dollars' sized bunch of pasta. When the pasta's done, drain and return to the pan. Add the chicken and sauce, and crinkle in the bacon. Toss all together with parmesan cheese... and enjoy!!

(Sidenote: as I'm writing this, it has now been snowing constantly in Chicago for a little over 24 hours. Ridiculous. Especially because... there are no hills for me to ski on. Boo.)

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