Sunday, June 4, 2017

Additions to Fettuccine Alfredo

Afternoon snacks with Julia
Afternoon Snacks with Julia
My (ex) daughter-in-law, Julia (now just considered daughter), came to visit last weekend. We bond over food, among other things and enjoy discussing what we might do next. When she was planning to come, I asked her what foods she would like me to make, and one of them was a Fettuccine Alfredo dish. 

The main reason was that since my husband got me a pasta maker, she figured it would be de rigueur to use it at least once. So once she made that part of the decision, it went on to additions to the dish. She suggested chicken and asparagus, mushrooms and Italian sausage. Lots of stuff to add in, but I will say it was absolutely delicious. Normally I am really not a sausage person. Especially not fresh sausage. I do eat smoked sausage on occasion but almost never fresh, unless I add it to spaghetti sauce. So it was an experiment for me.
Fettuccine Alfredo topped with Grilled Chicken, Sausage and Asparagus
Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Chicken, Sausage & Asparagus

I opted to grill the chicken, sausage and asparagus, as grilling just makes things taste so much better. To make the Alfredo sauce, I started out by steeping a lot of garlic in butter for a couple of hours over a low warming burner. I added some sage leaves for flavor. Before starting the sauce, I took out the spent sage leaves and added a couple tablespoons of Fino Sherry and cooked it out. Unfortunately, at this juncture, I was also starting to make the pasta, showing Julia the use of the pasta machine. Distracted, as we tend to get when discussing almost anything, I completely forgot about the garlic butter and Sherry on the stove and suddenly I smelled something burning. The pot was blackened, so I had to stop, scrub out the pot, and start over from scratch with garlic and butter (no "steeping" this time round), add the Sherry and go from there. Oh well; it happens to the best of us. It still came out great.
Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Chicken, Sausage & Asparagus
Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Chicken, Sausage & Asparagus

I had grilled the chicken (2 very tiny breasts) whole, then sliced it in long strips. I grilled 2 Italian sausage links (probably about 6 to 7 ounces total) whole, then sliced them on the bias. I grilled the asparagus whole, then cut into lengths. Julia sauteed the mushrooms while I was cutting the meats. All in all, with the amount of meats in there, I feel that this should feed about 6. We sort of pigged out a bit between the three of us at the meal and after giving her some to take home, we had only one portion left. It was just delicious, and I loved the sausage in there so much that a few days later I decided to make it again, only this time with only the remaining 3 Italian sausage links (no chicken), mushrooms and some sugar snap peas, just because I had them in the fridge. 
Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Sausage, Mushrooms & Sugar Snap Peas
Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Sausage, Mushrooms & Sugar Snap Peas

The first time we made it, I chose to add the sauteed mushrooms to the Fettuccine Alfredo, pour that into a large bowl and top it with the grilled meats and asparagus, as shown in the photo above. It made a pretty presentation, though you couldn't really see the pasta underneath all the toppings. The second time, I just combined the mushrooms, sausage and sugar snap peas with the pasta and served it that way, seen at left. Either way was great. The type of meats is totally optional. The kind of vegetable is optional. This was just Julia's particular craving, which I was more than happy to create.

I will admit though, that it is a but of a production to make all this and combine it. Lots of "moving parts," so to speak. The garlic and butter to steep ahead of time. The pasta can perfectly easily be cooked store bought pasta of your choosing. The meat or meats can be baked, fried or grilled at your leisure, and the vegetable, whether asparagus, sugar snap peas or other, can be grilled, steamed, microwaved or whatever. The mushrooms can be from a can, if preferred, or left out if mushrooms are not to your taste. But there are still lots of items to be prepared. And then, of course, the Alfredo sauce. Assembly is simple, once all the ingredients are readied. Another option is to grill (or bake or fry) the meats ahead of time and just reheat before adding to the pasta. As for the vegetables, they are much nicer at that "crisp-tender" stage than leftover and reheated to an unappetizing color, so I suggest that those, at least, are cooked just before adding them in.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken, Sausage & Asparagus

Serves at least 6
Fettuccine Alfredo with Sausage & Snow Peas
Fettuccine Alfredo with Sausage & Snow Peas

8 ounces fettuccine noodles

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
10 fresh sage leaves, whole
2 tablespoons Fino (dry) Sherry or dry white wine
¾ cup milk
¾ cup heavy cream
5 - 6 ounces cream cheese
¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
¾ cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese

4 - 6 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika

6 ounces mild Italian sausages

8-ounces fresh mushrooms (Baby Bella), sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Fino (dry) Sherry
1 bunch asparagus, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder and a drizzle of olive oil
(or substitute 8 ounces sugar snap peas) 

Start the Alfredo Sauce, time permitting, at least ½-hour and up to 3 hours ahead by setting the butter in a medium-large saucepan with the sage leaves and garlic and allowing it to steep in just barely warm butter. If time does not permit, simply saute the garlic with the sage leaves very gently until softened and the harsh, raw flavor is cooked out. Remove the sage leaves before continuing with the sauce. 

If using chicken, dry the meat and sprinkle with a combination of the salt, oregano, onion powder and paprika. Grill (or fry or saute) the chicken until done and set aside. Grill the Italian sausage until done, at least 14 to 16 minutes, until completely cooked through and set aside. When ready to use, slice the chicken into long narrow strips and slice the sausage on the bias.

Grill the asparagus until it just barely starts to bend in the center. Once done, slice them into lengths as desired. If substituting sugar snap peas, slice them in half, diagonally and steam for 7 to 8 minutes.

Saute the mushrooms in the 2 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle them with salt and saute until browned. Once browned add in the second 2 tablespoons of Sherry and cook until completely evaporated. 

Set a large pot of water to boil. Just as it boils, add in about 2 tablespoons of salt and then add the fettuccine. Cook as per package directions. Once cooked al dente, drain the noodles, reserving about ½ cup of the cooking water. Rinse the noodles briefly, drain and return them to the dry pot.

To finish the Alfredo sauce, add in the Sherry and cook over medium heat until the Sherry is evaporated. Add in the milk and cream and bring to just under boiling. Add in the cream cheese, in chunks, and stir until very soft (it may not completely melt). Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino-Romano cheeses and cook until they melt. Add the mushrooms to the sauce. Pour the sauce over the noodles in the pan and toss with pasta tongs to combine. Pour out into a large bowl and top with the meat(s) and vegetable. Alternately, just add all the meats and vegetable to the pot and stir, then turn it all out into a large bowl to serve. 

If the sauce looks too dry, add in some or all of the pasta cooking water to thin down. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.