Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mafaldine with Chicken and Pecorino Romano Basil Crème









     An Italian Artisan Pasta With A Popular American Style Sauce!
     Basil Crème Sauce is not a traditional Italian pasta sauce.  There actually are very few cream pasta sauces made in Italy.  One exception is in the region close to the French border where recipes are designed to please tourists.  When a cream sauce is made for pasta, it is usually made with Italian Besciamella Sauce and not reduced cream.
     Basil Crème Sauce first started to be offered in fine dining cafés shortly after Alfredo style cream sauce reached a peak in popularity in the 1980's.  I do say "Alfredo style cream sauce" for a reason, because an authentic Alfredo Sauce is made with just butter and cheese, not cream.
     Back in those days, many chefs simply reduced cream at a moderate temperature, then added Parmigiana Cheese to make a sauce for pasta, which was marketed as Pasta Alfredo.  As one can imagine, the sauce was heavy on the tummy because reduced cream is like concentrated fat!  Even so, the American dining public simply could not get enough Alfredo style cream sauce and a few variations of the recipe soon followed, like Basil Crème Pasta Sauce.
     Chicken is another item that is rarely seen in an authentic Italian pasta recipe.  Adding chicken to a pasta is basically an American idea.  Oddly enough, Chicken Alfredo Cream Sauce pasta was very popular in the 1990's.  Nearly every restaurant in America offered this pasta on a menu during that era.
     All good things come to an end and the ill fated end of most trendy pasta recipes happens when a corporate restaurant chain offers their version of a popular pasta recipe idea.  Chain restaurants are notorious for bastardizing recipes to make it easier to make high volume sales.  In other words, Alfredo Sauce or Chicken Alfredo Pasta at a typical corporate chain restaurant is made with dehydrated instant cheese sauce.  That is as low as it gets and the result is a trendy recipe that burns out long before its time.  The same can be said about the Basil Cream Sauce Pasta that a well known national corporate restaurant chain started marketing about 10 years ago.  Because the quality of the pasta was so lousy at the chain restaurants, it is now difficult to sell a great Basil Crème Pasta even in a fine dining café to this day.
     Today's recipe is a throwback to the 1980's and 1990's, when café chefs were making Basil Crème Sauce with the cream reduction method.  Imported Italian Parmigiana or Romano Cheese was usually added to the sauce, in order to maintain high quality standards.  Parmigiana is the most popular choice, but Pecorino Romano Cheese is a good choice too.  Pecorino Romano is hard aged cheese that is made with ewe's milk.  Pecorino Romano easily melts when heated in a sauce.
     Fresh basil is the best choice for today's sauce.  Dried basil does not have a sharp enough flavor or enough color to be a featured in a Basil Crème Sauce.  Of course, adding chicken was par for the course back in those days, so chicken is in today's recipe.  
     For an authentic 1980's style Pasta with Chicken and Basil Crème, Fettuccine Pasta or Penne would be the only choice.  Both of these pasta shapes were popular in America back in that era.  In modern times, the dining public has taken a liking to artisan pasta shapes and Mafaldine Pasta is a great choice.  Mafaldine Pasta was named after an Italian princess.  Her life came to a tragic end during WWII and it was fitting for a nice artisan pasta to be named in her honor.  Mafaldine is a long ribbon pasta that has ruffle edges.  This fancy ribbon pasta picks up a sauce well and it is appealing to the eye.
 
     Mafaldine with Chicken and Pecorino Romano Basil Crème:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.
     Only enough sauce should be made to coat the pasta with flavor!  Pasta should never be flooded with sauce.  
     Step 1:  Cook 1 large portion of Mafaldine Pasta in a pot of boiling water over high heat, till the pasta is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 4 ounces of raw chicken breast filet that is cut into bite size thin slices.
     Sauté the chicken till it is halfway done.
     Step 3:  Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a light golden color.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of dry white wine.
     Simmer and reduce till the wine is almost evaporated.
     Step 5:  Add 1 1/2 cups of cream.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Bring the cream to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of fine grated Pecorino Romano Cheese while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Constantly whisk till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Step 7:  Add 3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh basil.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  (Occasionally stir the sauce.)  
     *The finished volume will be almost 1 1/4 cups.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add the prepared Mafaldine Pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan.
     Toss the pasta, chicken and sauce together till the pasta is reheated.
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Use a long tine carving fork to twist the pasta, while mounding the pasta on the center of a plate.
     Spoon any excess sauce or chicken pieces over the pasta.
     Step 10:  Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of finely grated Pecorino Romano Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish the pasta with a small basil sprig.
  
     Mafaldine with Chicken and Pecorino Romano Basil Crème is rich enough to satisfy guests when the winter weather is icy cold!    

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