This week we have another guest appearance by my good friend Ginny, who’s previously provided a recipe for pan-fried fish.  This time, she goes to town on a stovetop pasta dish.  Here she is!

This recipe will make some amazing chicken tetrazzini, but one of the great things about this basic sauce is that you can do almost anything with it by changing it up just a little.  Using a base of cream and some cheese, you can make a huge variety of sauces.  (For this recipe we used half-and-half, but you can also use heavy cream if you reduce it less.)  You can do anything from alfredo to gourmet mac-and-cheese — or plain mac-and-cheese for that matter.   :-)

You can also change up the veggies and seasonings to add more of a kick.  Some suggestions: Add crushed red pepper and a dash of cayenne to add some nice spice to the dish. Other vegetables can add color and interest, like yellow or orange bell peppers, broccoli crowns, zucchini, mushrooms, or spinach.  All need different cooking times than the simple combination of green onions and red bell peppers, though, so you’ll want to be judicious about when to add each ingredient.  In particular, if you’re using spinach, add it just before the parmesan cheese.  For the pasta, I would recommend Penne (tube), rotini/fusilli (spiral), or farfalle (bowtie) as these will hold the sauce better, but plain spaghetti or fettuccine style will work just fine.

Stovetop Tetrazzini

Yield:  3-4 servings, depending on how hungry people are.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 – 3/4 pound raw pasta
  • 2 large chicken thighs
  • generous dash of black pepper
  • 2 green onions
  • 1/4 of a large red bell pepper
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Directions:

1.  Cook the pasta to desired doneness, drain, and rinse with cold water.  Rinsing the pasta will take the remaining heat from the boiling water out of it and stop it from cooking further.  Set aside.

2.  Defrost and cut up 2 large chicken thighs.  I recommend either 1/2-3/4 inch cubes, or 1/2 strips, but it doesn’t really matter what size you cut them to as far as the finished product is concerned.

3.  In a large, greased or nonstick skillet, cook the chicken on medium-high heat, adding a generous dash of black pepper to season.  Drain and reserve.  Salt should not be added with the chicken as the parmesan that will go in the sauce is salty and it is VERY easy to over-salt.  If necessary, salt may be added to taste after all is done.

4.  Dice 2 green onions and 1/4 of a large red bell pepper.

5.  Heat skillet on medium.  Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan and add 1/8 – 1/4 tsp minced garlic.  This bit is a little tricky.  If the pan is too hot, the garlic will burn.  Properly browned garlic is a light caramel color.  If the garlic burns, there is unfortunately nothing to be done except throw it out and start over with the olive oil.  While browned garlic is tasty, burned garlic is terrible and will make everything you put it in taste like smoke and burnt.

6.  As soon as the garlic hits the right color, add in the diced onions and bell pepper.  This will cut a lot of the heat off the garlic, so as long as you’re careful not to leave the entire thing unattended and let it burn, the garlic isn’t really a problem anymore.  Cook down the onions and bell peppers, stirring occasionally, until the peppers just begin to turn translucent.  Add 1/2 tsp parsley and 1/2 tsp basil.  It is possible to scorch the herbs, so the mixture should be stirred often.  Let cook for about 1 minute.

7.  Add 2 cups half-and-half to the skillet.  Reduce the liquid by a quarter, whisking it often so it won’t break.

8.  Once the half-and-half is reduced, add 3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese.  Reggiano will invariably give the best result, but really, any parmesan will work.  Whisk in the cheese and continue reducing the liquid until the mixture has the consistency of thin pancake batter.

9.  Add in the cooked chicken and noodles, toss, and serve.