Dining In

A Passion for Pasta
By Nancy Finch, Food Columnist

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo
Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

What is quick, filling, cheap and delicious?  

Pasta.

And how far we have come! Pasta for most of my life meant opening a box of macaroni or spaghetti. We didn’t call it “pasta” then. 

Soon, however, we were calling these flour and water concoctions “pasta.” It became glamorous, trendy and very “in.” I just had to have a pasta machine and was given one for some occasion. I think I used it twice. I quickly decided I would never get the hang of it, didn’t think it was fun to make pasta, the pasta was terrible, the mess was incredible and, besides, you could, about that time, buy fresh pasta.

The machine was awarded to my daughter — an early inheritance.

One of the beauties of buying the packaged fresh pasta is that it cooks in just three or four minutes, even less for some like angel hair. This makes for a very jiffy meal.

With some leftover baked chicken, we produced Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo. Dinner went on the table in minutes. The combination brought compliments on the first go round and the second. The recipe makes plenty for four. Actually, I used the increasingly available “broccolini” that I like better than broccoli. It has a milder taste. Broccolini is a cross between broccoli and Japanese kale. It is tender and there is no waste, eat stems and heads.

Nearly anything combines nicely with pasta so it is fun to experiment. I was intrigued by a seafood-and-pasta recipe that used sour cream as the sauce. The recipe warned that the sour cream may become thin in heating and advised a thickener just in case. For Creamy Shrimp and Pasta, I made a roux first and then, at the last minute, added the sour cream just to heat through.

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

Ingredients:

bullet8 oz. linguine or fettucini
bullet1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli flowerets or broccolini, cut into pieces
bullet1 to 2 cups cooked chicken, cut into chunks
bullet1 can cream of mushroom soup, regular or fat free
bullet1⁄2 cup milk
bullet1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
bullet1⁄4 t pepper

Directions: Cook pasta according to instructions. Add broccoli for last few minutes of cooking time. Drain. Add chicken. Combine soup, milk and cheese. Add to pasta mixture and heat through. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

Creamy Shrimp and Pasta

Ingredients:

bullet3 T butter or margarine
bulletSeveral large shallots, chopped
bullet1 T flour
bullet1⁄2 cup milk or cream
bullet1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
bullet1 cup mushrooms, sliced
bullet1 pt. sour cream
bullet8 oz. fettuccine
bullet1⁄2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
bulletFresh parsley, basil or cilantro

Directions: Melt butter in skillet, add shallots and cook until soft. Add flour and cook several minutes until lightly brown. Add cream or milk and stir until thickened. Then add mushrooms and shrimp. Cook just until shrimp turn pink. Do not overcook. Meanwhile, have water boiling to cook pasta, either fresh or dried. While pasta is cooking, stir sour cream into shrimp-and-mushroom mixture.

Warm sauce through, do not allow to boil. Drain pasta and pour into serving dish. Top with shrimp sour cream sauce. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on sauce and garnish with fresh chopped parsley, basil or cilantro. Serves 4.

 

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