My Mom is a very good cook. She's not a gourmet, certainly not a culinary snob, but she can follow a recipe and make the most of it. She can also walk into the kitchen, raid the pantry, and make a delicious meal from whatever's on hand. Most impressive is her ability to duplicate, or even improve upon, a (simple) restaurant recipe just by taste.
I was fortunate enough to inherit her skills and the good sense to pay attention when I helped Mom and Babcie (that's Polish for Grandma) in the kitchen. They taught me the basic techniques I needed to survive on my own and be able to cook for myself and others. Just about everything else I know about cooking and cuisine came from watching the Food Network, and before that, various cooking shows like the Great Chefs series and, of course, Julia Child. So when I throw together a recipe I really love I try to write it down immediately. Why? Because if I'm asked to share a recipe I tend to get blank stares when I say things like, ". . .then throw in a little tomato paste and a ton of garlic." How much is "a little?". . .What do you mean by "a ton?" I get it. Some people can cook by feel and some need a real, honest to goodness recipe to follow. With that, I give you a recipe that was a big hit a couple of weeks ago along with a way to use the leftovers AND a variation that tastes completely different.
I didn't have the presence of mind to take any pictures of the original recipe and the leftovers were gone by the time I thought of it, so the photos you see are of the variation that uses sausage.
2 Tbsp canola or olive oil
2 tsp butter (real butter, not margarine!)
1/2 c onion, chopped
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic, chopped (or substitute 1/2 t garlic powder)
1 (12 oz.) box of penne or ziti, cooked until it's almost done, then drained
1-1 1/2 lbs chicken, cut into bite sized cubes
1 c frozen green beans
grated parmesan cheese, to taste
Heat oil and butter in a deep, nonstick pan on medium heat until butter is completely melted
Add onion and sautee until translucent
Add garlic, Italian seasoning, and chicken and sautee until chicken is almost cooked through
Stir in pasta and vegetables
Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are heated through and the chicken is done (about 7-10 minutes)
Dish up and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and serve with a side of garlic bread
Total time in the kitchen: about 45 minutes
Serves 8 generous portions
A Few Notes about Ingredients:
That little bit of butter will add a ton of flavor without adding a lot of saturated fat, so please don't leave it out. If you want to reduce the fat content then reduce the amount of oil slightly.
The pasta I prefer is a tri-color made with actual vegetables to sneak some veggies into the kids' diets or a whole grain pasta. Either is better tasting and more nutritious than that plain old white stuff. The reason you slightly undercook your pasta is that the steam released from your veggies will cook the pasta the rest of the way. If you add fully cooked pasta, it will get mushy. I add quite a bit of salt to my pasta water because I don't add salt to my recipes.
If you aren't crazy about green beans use frozen peas, carrots, or corn. Just make sure your veggies are frozen and not canned.
What to Do with the Leftovers:
The next day, once everything is sufficiently chilled, toss the whole deal with your favorite Italian dressing (about 2 Tbsp per serving) and serve cold. This makes an awesome pasta salad.
|Auntie's Pasta made with turkey sausage|
Instead of chicken and Italian seasoning, use a good quality sausage (I used a turkey and cheddar sausage we all love) and oregano. (Credit for this variation has to go to my BFF who grabbed a package of sausage out of the freezer and asked, "Do you think you can turn this into that thing you made last week with the chicken and the pasta?")
You could also go with sliced steak and summer savory, but I'd leave off the parmesan cheese.
I welcome any other ideas you might have for variations. Please leave them in the comments section.