Creamy Pasta with Chicken, Tomato, and Spinach

IMG_7727For the majority of my meals, I am watching my refined carbohydrates and trying to reduce starches in my diet. I have come a long way in the realm of healthy eating and weight management-an achievement of which I am incredibly proud. But, every once in a while, I completely give in to my love of pasta. Soaking in tomato sauce, kissed by basil, swimming in broth, how I love pasta. Let me count the ways. I can’t help it-I just love food in all shapes and forms. And pasta, whether dressed up in a bow tie, slenderized in fettuccine, or rolled thinly and svelte as papperdelle, never disappoints. And the cherry on top? The delicious sauce that comes as its partner! Whenever I eat pasta at restaurants, I always indulge in a nice creamy sauce because I usually limit myself to tomato-based sauces when I cook at home. However, some foods are made to nourish the body and some have been designed to nourish the soul.

Today, I was inspired to make this dish because I needed to nourish the body and soul of my brother-in-law. My sister recently gave birth to her first child- my niece Jamie. I am so thrilled to finally be an auntie! She is absolutely adorable and I can’t wait to see what kind of person she becomes. We all know it takes a village to raise a child. So I’ve begun delivering meals for my brother-in-law because my sister has been occupied with caring for her new bundle of joy. I asked myself: what would I want to eat if I were completely exhausted an in need of a pick-me-up? Pasta was the first thing that came to mind.

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Cooking Tips

When cooking pieces of chicken breast in a sauce, it is important to be strategic about how big the chicken breast pieces will be. Cut them too small and the chicken will become dry after cooking for a short amount of time. If they are too large and thick, the cooking process may render the outside layers overcooked while the inside remains undercooked. If you are cooking a whole chicken breast, consider the butterfly technique and using a meat mallet or a large knife to flatten thickness. This will cut down on cooking time and create evenness in the cooking process of the chicken.

Red pepper flake and shallots may be difficult to pinpoint and isolate in an Italian dish, but when they are missing, it is similar to the foundation being cracked in a structure. Unstable and shaky, the pasta dish cannot stand without the fundamental building blocks of flavor.

If you like pasta to be “al dente”, purposely undercook the pasta by a minute or two in boiling water. When the pasta is added to your sauce, you can cook it to its desired consistency and texture. Please, please, please never drain pasta and then serve after topping it with sauce! The pasta needs to be cooked in the sauce to create a complete pasta dish-it allows the pasta to soak up and stick to the sauce.

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Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
½ package dried penne
½ package bacon or pancetta, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 diced shallot
2 chicken breasts
1 tsp garlic salt, or to taste
pinch of red pepper flake, to taste
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
¼ c sherry wine
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 cup grated Parmigianno Reggiano
1 bunch spinach
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 bunch basil

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil pasta according to package directions (approximately 7-10 minutes).

While pasta is cooking, sauté pancetta in large skillet. Heat skillet on medium high and place pancetta in the pan. When the bacon begins to crisp up showing a nice golden brown color, add onion and garlic. Saute for another 2-3 minutes, then set aside.

Thinly slice chicken breast into ¼ inch thick pieces. Season with garlic salt, red pepper flake, black pepper, dried basil. Set aside for 10 minutes to marinate. When chicken has finished marinating, heat large skillet and drizzle with oil. Sear chicken until both sides are golden brown (approximately 3-5 minutes). Then add pancetta, garlic, and shallot mixture.

Add wine and heavy whipping cream, and Parmiggiano Reggiano into the chicken. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce thickens.

Drain the pasta and add into chicken and cream sauce. Add a splash of pasta water to adjust consistency of the pasta sauce. When the pasta sauce has thickened to desired consistency, add spinach and tomato. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.

Turn off the fire and add in fresh basil. Adjust seasoning as needed: add garlic salt, red pepper flake, Parmiggiano Reggiano, and black pepper to taste.

 

Truffle Pan Seared Steak

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Another truffle recipe from the same truffle that I was gifted months ago. Truffle is a special ingredient in that it does not require any fancy preparation or cooking. With its deep earthy umami flavor, it simply needs shaving/grating, and then gets incorporated into a dish that does not mask its flavor. In my experience, black truffle pairs very well with beef, potatoes, and creamy pasta dishes. It’s also great with a simple bread and butter combo.

The key to this truffle steak recipe is a quality piece of meat. Although it is an admirable feat to transform humble ingredients into a mouthwatering dish, some dishes necessitate high quality ingredients. I oftentimes buy my steak from Ralphs, Trader Joe’s, or Sprouts because they tend to have higher quality meats that are within my price range. I prefer New York Strip or top sirloin because of their high flavor profile and affordability. I avoid rib eye for health reasons because of its high fat content and higher price tag, but that would be an excellent cut for this dish as well. My favorite accompaniments to a well-seared piece of steak? Homemade creamed spinach, creamed corn, and some buttery fluffy mashed potatoes. Those recipes will likely follow in future posts.

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Cooking and eating bring so much joy and comfort to me. Although I try to avoid extreme emotional eating on most days, some days you just need a full steak dinner to reward yourself for a hard day’s work. I like to make special dinners for my fiancé and me on Fridays, because it marks the end of our workweek. Sharing a special dinner just helps to jumpstart the beginning of a relaxing and fun weekend. Without further ado, I hope you make good use of this truffle steak recipe to celebrate a romantic evening at home with your significant other.

 

img_1855img_1873Cooking notes/tips:

Invest in a cast iron skillet or heavy skillet for optimal searing of steaks and meats. You won’t be sorry!

I almost always sear my steaks/pork chops/chicken breasts, and then finish cooking in the oven.

Always. I mean, always allow your steak to rest 7-10 minutes before serving. This will allow its juices to redistribute prior to cutting, preventing a dry steak.

Recipe
Servings: 6-8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 tsp truffle salt
pepper, to taste
2 tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic
1 sprig rosemary
6 top sirloin steaks

Directions 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Pat steaks dry and season generously with truffle salt, pepper, and any additional salt to taste.

Heat cast iron skillet on high heat. Place a pat of butter and 2 cloves of garlic into the pan. Continue moving garlic around, allowing it to flavor the butter. Then add sprig of rosemary into melted butter and allow this to flavor the butter.

Sear steak in 2-3 batches. Place steaks onto pan and allow to sear for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown.

Continuously turn sprig of rosemary and garlic cloves to prevent burning. Remove garlic cloves from pan once they are golden brown

Flip steaks and allow the other side to sear 3-5 minutes.

Place garlic cloves and steaks in the oven and allow to roast for 10-20 minutes at 350 degrees, depending on thickness and desired level of doneness. For medium steak, roast for 10-15 minutes.

When steak is at desired level of doneness, take out of oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Slice steak and shave fresh black truffle on the top. Serve immediately with roasted garlic cloves.