Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pennoni with Chicken, Spinach and Portobello en Romano Crème

     A Simple Cream Sauce Pasta!
     Pennoni is a tube pasta that is shaped like penne, but the walls of Pennoni are much thinner.  Thinner walls on a tube pasta means that more care must be taken when cooking the pasta, so the pieces of pennoni do not break.
     Is today's Pennoni Pasta recipe a traditional Italian pasta?  The answer is no.  Cream sauces are rarely used for pasta in Italy.  However, there are Italian American restaurants that offer similar pastas, because simple cream sauce pastas are popular in America.  The same can be said about chicken.  Chicken is rarely added to pasta in Italy, but in America, nearly every casual restaurant offers a token chicken pasta.  The reason why, is because cream sauce pastas sell!  
     Many people like cream sauce pastas.  Cream sauce pastas are easy to make and they can easily be made to order.  The best cream sauce pastas are made with Besciamella Sauce (Béchamel Sauce).  Cream reduction sauces are okay in a pinch, but reducing cream is like doubling the fat content and food cost.  Many chefs agree that cream reduction sauces are so easy to make, that they can become a crutch.   
     The worst example of cream sauce pastas are those that are served by chain restaurants.  Most times, the cream sauce at a chain restaurant is made with a package of freeze dried instant cream sauce mix.  
     A problem with cream sauce pastas at casual restaurants is the pasta is all too often flooded with sauce.  Just because customers like cream sauce pastas, it does not mean that the pasta has to be swimming in cream sauce!  The basic Italian rule for saucing pasta is to only make enough sauce to coat the pasta with flavor.  When this rule is applied, cream sauce pastas are much more appealing.

     Pennoni with Chicken, Spinach and Portobello en Romano Crème:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     The sauce for this pasta is a la minute and it can be prepared while the pasta cooks.  The idea is to finish the sauce and pasta at the same time, so the flavor and texture is at the peak of perfection.  In this case, the pasta takes about 10 minutes to cook al dente, so the sauce should be finished in less than 10 minutes!  Be sure to have the ingredients ready ahead of time.  
     The sauce is a simple reduction of Romano Cheese and cream.  This is the easiest of all cream sauces to make.  However, it is also easy to reduce the sauce too much and the sauce will be too thick and rich.
     Step 1:  Start cooking 1 portion of Pennoni Pasta in boiling water, till it is al dente.  
     *The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks!  If the pasta finishes before the sauce, then drain off the hot water and set the pasta aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 4 ounces of bite size pieces of boneless chicken breast.
     Lightly season with seas salt and black pepper.
     Sauté till the chicken pieces are about halfway cooked.
     Step 3:  Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 2 small portobello mushrooms that are cut into small wedges.
     Sauté till the mushrooms start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add 1 cup of cream.
     Bring the cream to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 3 1/2 tablespoons of finely grated Romano Cheese while stirring.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.  
     Step 6:  Add 1 1/2 cups of baby spinach leaves.
     Stir the spinach into the sauce as the leaves wilt.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it is a thin cream sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.
     Step 7:  When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Add the Pennoni Pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Step 8:  Mound the pasta in a shallow pasta bowl.  Try to expose some of the featured ingredients on the surface. 
     Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of finely grated Romano Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     This pasta has appealing familiar flavors and it is nice for a chilly evening!  

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