Penne with Chicken in a Spicy Tomato Sauce

PennaThe credit for this recipe goes to my daughter, Jyoti. This Italian pasta, with an Indian twist, is a beautiful springtime dish. It is easy to prepare and requires only a few ingredients.

Many of my Indian friends in the U.S. have a special blend of spices called Telugu masala in their kitchen cabinets. I get my stash of Telugu masala from Aunty Absolom. It’s the best! In this recipe, I’ve given you the choice of using plain chilli powder or Telugu masala. You can adjust the amount to suit your taste.

A few points to remember when making this pasta dish. When cooking the penne, salt the water well. Since the penne will be cooked in the sauce again, cook it just shy of being completely done. There must be a bite to the penne. Italians call it al dente. You can use minced chicken or turkey breast for this recipe. Also, I try to buy the best spaghetti sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that I find. It makes a big difference! The brand of tomato sauce that I used for this recipe is Paesana and I bought it from Whole Foods.

Penne with Chicken in a Spicy Tomato Sauce
1 13.25 ounce box Barilla whole grain penne (cook to al dente using directions on the box)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ pound minced chicken breast
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
3 teaspoons chilli powder (or Telugu masala)
1 25 ounce jar of spaghetti sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)
2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley or spring onion

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the minced chicken and brown, gently breaking it up into bits with a wooden spoon. Add the onion and cook until light brown and tender. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the chilli power and saute for 30 seconds. Then add the spaghetti sauce, salt, and pepper. Turn the heat to low and cook for five minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the penne in a large pot to al dente. Use the directions on the box and make sure that you add enough salt while cooking the penne. Reserve two tablespoons of the cooking water, drain the penne and return it to the pot.  Add the sauce to the penne and toss over medium heat. Add the reserved cooking water and let the penne absorb some of the sauce. Remove from heat after two minutes. Garnish with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and parsley or spring onion. Serve with garlic bread and salad.

Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo2I love Fettuccine Alfredo. Every time I order it at an Italian restaurant, my kids tease me for not trying something new. I just like the fact that it takes only pasta, butter, cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, and pepper to create such a heavenly dish! In preparation for this recipe, I tested several from different magazines. After a few modifications, I have finally come up with this version that my kids and I think turned out the best.

When I have unexpected guests, Fettuccine Alfredo is on my dinner menu. Its quick and requires ingredients you probably already have in your pantry and refrigerator. Serve it with thick slices of garlic bread and a hearty tossed salad. Try it and let me know what you think.

Fettuccine Alfredo
1 pound dried Fettuccine
1½ cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons pasta water
Fresh parsley for garnish, optional

In a saucepan, bring 1 cup heavy cream and butter to a simmer over medium heat. Reserve ½ cup of the cream for later. Lower the heat and simmer gently until the milk and butter mixture reduces to ½ cup. It will take about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the remaining ½ cup of cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a large pot, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Remember to add salt to the boiling water before you add the pasta. When the pasta is cooked but still firm when bitten, reserve 3 tablespoons of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and put it back into the pot.

In a large, shallow serving bowl add half the finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Pour the warm butter and cream mixture over it. Immediately add the hot pasta and the reserved pasta water. Toss well and then sprinkle the other half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve right away.