Thursday, 13 November 2014

Fettucini with Chicken, Asparagus, Red Peppers and Blue Cheese

This dish was a classic "What's in the fridge?" meal...I was planning on using the last 2 chicken breasts from the freezer, and pulled all the bits and pieces from the fridge. The result was a delicious pasta, with asparagus, red peppers and leeks in a roasted garlic broth, topped with pinenuts and blue cheese. Time to go grocery shopping!

The partial red pepper, leek and the last few spears of fresh asparagus were the inspiration for this pasta dish.

Finely slice the leek and red pepper.

Cut the asparagus into 2" pieces, and set aside until later.

I grated the last bit of Parmesan, and crumbled the last small piece of blue cheese.

Save the Parmesan rinds for the sauce.

Dice about 1/4 cup of sundried tomatoes.

I had roasted the last 2 bulbs of garlic earlier in the day. Remove the skins and roughly chop the garlic.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Cut the 2 chicken breasts into 1" dice.

In a hot pan with a bit of olive oil, quickly sear the chicken, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Remove from the pan, and set aside until the sauce is ready.

In the same pan, cook the leeks and red peppers in a bit of olive oil, until the leeks start to soften.

Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Add in the diced sundried tomatoes and roasted garlic. Stir to combine, making sure the roasted garlic paste is well distributed.

Now add the reserved Parmesan rinds, and enough chicken stock to cover the vegetables.

Simmer until the stock reduces and you are left with a sauce thick enough to coat the cooked pasta. Add more stock if needed.

You are aiming for cooked vegetables, and melting Parmesan rinds. You can make as much, or as little, sauce as you like.

Return the seared chicken to the sauce, and continue to simmer until the chicken is fully cooked, adding more chicken stock as needed.

Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Cook the pasta in the salted, boiling water, adding the asparagus to the pot for the last minute. Drain the pasta and asparagus and return to the cooking pot. Add the sauce to the pot, and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce...remember to remove the Parmesan rinds before serving!

Sprinkle the pasta with toasted pinenuts, grated Parmesan and crumbled blue cheese.

  • The Parmesan rinds add richness to an otherwise light sauce. I never throw mine out, but keep them for pasta sauces or stews.
  • Any cheese will work with this dish...goat cheese, asiago, bocconcini or feta.
  • Salt the sauce lightly and adjust it at the end. A lot of the components are salty: the sundried tomatoes, Parmesan rinds, chicken stock. Remember, it's easier to add than to take away!!!
  • If you don't have leeks, any member of the onion family will do...shallots, onions, green onions.
  • If my last red pepper was whole, I would have roasted it. This would have added a sweetness to the sauce.
  • Olives would complement everything really well.
  • If you like things spicy, add a pinch or more of chili flakes to the sauce.
  • The roasted garlic paste combines with the chicken stock to make a light, creamy sauce. If you want a richer sauce you can add whipping cream, or stir a soft cheese such as cream cheese, goat cheese or blue cheese into the stock; it will melt and make a richer sauce.
  • To toast the pinenuts, place them in the dry frying pan before cooking the chicken, and cook them over a medium low heat, stirring often until they start to colour. Remove from the heat and set aside. This saves turning the oven on if you forgot to toast the nuts when the garlic was roasting, as I did.
  • The pinenuts, or any other soft nut such as walnuts, can also be crushed and added to the sauce with the roasted garlic. This will add richness and texture to the sauce.
  • Add fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley, chives or rosemary.
  • Shredded fresh spinach placed on top of the hot pasta as a garnish, will wilt down and become part of the dish.
  • This sauce can be made without meat, or with fish, prawns or scallops.
  • The vegetables can be prepared the day before; the garlic and nuts can be roasted a couple of days ahead when you have the oven on for something else.

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