Carmela & Gabriella’s Cream Sauce

Life is a combination of magic and pasta – Federico Fellini

When my two younger cousins, Carmela and Gabriella, asked if they could stay the night with me a few weekends ago and hang out, I couldn’t wait. I was really excited to spend some quality time with them and to learn more about their lives. It’s easy to forget what high school is really like until you have two young girls in the midst of it, telling you stories. I was glad I was able to share some insight (which did make me feel older than I would like) on boys, friends, college, etc.

Sometimes we forget how scary growing up can be, and it was nice to be able to look back on my high school and college days and confidently tell them that it really will all work out in the end…and to just have fun while you get through all the “growing up.”

After we ate the amazing Flying Cupcakes they brought over after work (oh to have the metabolism of a 15-year-old girl again…), we decided to make dinner together. Carmela’s Dad owns a pizza place here in Indy (Enzo’s Pizza) and her family is from Sicily, so she definitely likes to cook!

The girls requested a cream sauce with Tortellini, so I thought it would be fun to come up with our own version (hence the name). After picking a few key ingredients, we headed to the kitchen to have a fun little cooking adventure!

Carmela handled the chicken and mushrooms, while I taught Gabriella how to make sauce. This was Gabriella’s first time making a sauce, so I let her takeover for a little bit. I understood how to cook by watching my Mom while I was growing up, but I really learned how to cook by doing it on my own, with a little bit of guidance.

Carmela & Gabriella Cooking

Carmela & Gabriella’s Cream Sauce

with Tortellini, Chicken, Mushrooms and Peas

Tortellini

Ingredients

1-Tablespoon butter

1-Tablespoon olive oil

1-Garlic clove

Salt & Pepper, to taste

1 ½ Cup heavy whipping cream

1½ Cup of chicken broth (use “better than bouillon” to make your broth)

Red Pepper, to taste

Garlic Powder, to taste

2-Tablespoons flour

1-Bag of frozen peas

1-package of baby Bella Mushrooms

3 pieces of thinly sliced chicken breast

David Page’s Special Seasoning

Boil a pot of water and add the bouillon base as directed on the package. Once the bouillon is finished, set aside.

Season chicken with David Page’s Special seasons and slice into small pieces. Heat skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil and add chicken. Cook half way and add in the mushrooms. Continue cooking until mushrooms and chicken are cooked thoroughly.

Sliced Chicken

Baby Bella Mushrooms

While you are cooking the chicken, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the garlic clove and salt and pepper. Once the butter has melted and the garlic is translucent, add 1 cup of cream and 1 cup of chicken broth.

Melting Butter

Seasoned Butter

Cream Sauce Cooking

Season with Garlic Powder, Red Pepper flakes and Parmesan Cheese to taste, and let simmer for about 15 minutes while stirring constantly. If the sauce needs to be thickened add about 1-Tablespoon of flour and some more cheese.

Bring sauce to a boil for about 5 minutes and then turn down the heat to simmer. Continue to stir for about 20 minutes (add in more cream and more chicken broth, as needed).

Cream Sauce Cooking

Everything Cooking

After about 20 minutes, add the frozen peas, mushrooms and chicken to the sauce and continue cooking until the peas are cooked and the sauce is at the desired consistency.

While your sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Once the water is at a rapid boil, add the tortellini and cook until finished (once the Tortellini all rises to the top of the pot it is cooked).

Mix the tortellini with the sauce in a serving dish, sprinkle on some Parmesan Cheese and serve!

Cream Sauce with Peas & Mushrooms

Carmela & Gabriella's Cream Sauce

I was actually surprised how delicious the sauce ended up being. I hadn’t made a cream sauce in a very , very long time (dairy is my new enemy) so I was feeling a little shaky on my delivery.

I had to add a little more flour than I would have liked because I wanted to use as little cream as possible, but in a cream sauce that is kind of difficult!

After making Pasta with Carmela, I decided we have to make Pizza together, and soon! Or Bread with my Grandma…Two of my very best friends are getting married in April and May, so I haven’t had enough time to plan our next cooking adventure with all the wedding celebrations lately. Hopefully there will be some time in early April!

Below are two pictures from my weekends in Chicago and Austin celebrating the Brides-to-Be!

Laura's Bachelorette Party

Laura’s Bachelorette Party

Maegan's Bachelorette Party

Maegan’s Bachelorette Party

Chicken Parmesan

With the craziness of the holidays and the new year, my cooking adventures had been few and far between. Hopefully, with the start of 2011 I can get back in the kitchen and continue making new food and recipes to share with everyone!

A friend at work and I were talking about a dish I could make that would be good, fairly simple, and liked by a lot of people. So she suggested Chicken Parmesan. As I  thought about making this for dinner I couldn’t believe that I had never actually made this before! My Grandma’s breaded chicken  is one of my all time favorite meals with pasta, but Chicken Parmesan is not something I typically order off a menu, and the version I have at home really isn’t Chicken Parmesan, so I decided to take on the Kitchen Adventure!

I didn’t have a family recipe for Chicken Parmesan, so I just went with what I thought would be included in chicken parmesan.

Chicken Parmesan

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Flour

3 eggs

Bread Crumbs

Salt and pepper

Olive Oil

Fresh Basil

Provolone Cheese

Spaghetti

Pasta Sauce (see my quick sauce*)

Clean the chicken and then wrap each piece of chicken in plastic wrap and pound thin. Put flour in a deep dish and season with salt and pepper (don’t be shy. Make sure you can see the flour. Give it a taste before you put the Chicken in it). In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and add a tsp of water. In a third bowl, add the bread crumb.

Dip the chicken in the flour and coat. Then, dip it in the egg. Make sure the egg yolk has dripped off and then add to the bread crumbs. Continue with all the chicken pieces.

In a large pan, heat olive oil. Lightly sear the chicken breasts, but do not cook through. While the chicken is cooking, add sauce to the bottom a baking dish. Once the chicken is slightly cooked, add to the baking dish. Cover lightly with sauce. Add a piece of fresh basil and top with a piece of provolone cheese. Cover again with sauce, but be sure to leave enough for your pasta.

Bake chicken for 15-20 minutes at 350º.

Bring salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook. Drain, rinse, cover with sauce and serve with chicken!

**I didn’t get to take a picture, but I thought it looked delicious!

I unfortunately didn’t have time to make my own bread crumbs, so that is something I will have to do next time around. It was a pretty easy meal to make and I am excited to try it again sometime!

Lucia

Summer Time Pasta

One of my favorite pasta dishes is something I like to call my “Summer Time Pasta.” It is light, fresh, colorful, and most of all, delicious! Another great part of this dish is you really can add anything you want. I usually include cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and something green, depending on what I have in my refrigerator. This time I added peas, but I usually prefer zucchini.

Boil your pasta water (don’t forget to add the salt). Slice the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella. Add salt and pepper and then top with olive oil. Mix together and then add basil. I used the steam fresh bag of peas the other night, but if you are using zucchini, chop that first and lightly saute in olive oil until cooked, and then set aside.

Tomatoes and Mozzarella – Seasoned

I also used whole wheat rotini last night, but this works well with penne too. Once the pasta is cooked and drained (never rinse) mix in the tomatoes, mozzarella and zucchini (or other veggie) and lightly season with salt, pepper, and parmesan. If needed, add more olive oil. The best part about this dish is you really can add in anything you want and it turns out so incredibly satisfying!

Summer Time Pasta

Ingredients:

1 lb of Pasta

1 Steam Fresh bag of Peas (or fresh zucchini)

Tomatoes (preferably cherry)

Mozzarella

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Parmesan Cheese

Cut up your tomatoes and mix with mozzarella, olive oil and salt & pepper and set aside. Boil your pasta water, add pasta and cook. While cooking make your zucchini, peas, or any other vegetables you wish to include. Once pasta is cooked, drain (DO NOT RINSE), mix with all ingredients, season with more salt & pepper if needed, add parmesan cheese and serve!

I celebrated my 24th birthday on Tuesday. I still don’t feel old though, which I am guessing is a good thing. For some reason, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I am technically an “adult.” Anyway, my friends and I celebrated by going to the Cubs game! We were lucky enough to come across 2nd row seats and it was a perfect night for baseball and beer!

Cubs vs. Pirates – Cubs win!

They also surprised with me with yummy cupcakes from Swirlz and Sweet Mandy B’s, a beautiful necklace I have been wanting, and beer! I am pretty sure all of those things create an amazing birthday! I felt so fortunate to be able to spend my birthday with some of my favorite people, especially since I was away from my family! Thank you girls for the best birthday! Oh…and did I mention Alyssa hit the spot with Barbie plates and a Barbie happy birthday sign? Yes, I do love Barbie’s!

I hope everyone has a wonderful 4th of July weekend! I am sure there will be many cooking adventures to come after this long weekend, which hopefully will be filled with lots of good food and fun, so stay tuned!

For the Love of Italy…and it’s Food!

So I first fell in love with cooking while I was in Italy.  It wasn’t the best place to start off my passion for food because no matter what, nothing I do now can live up to the amazingness that was created and eaten in Italy.  When my friend Jordan came to visit from Rome, we decided to have a BIG Italian feast.  I decided to  make Pasta Carbonara.  To say it was good is an understatement.  Later, when I came to Rome to visit Jordan, he bought a ton of pancetta, fresh from the butcher.  Unfortunately, I messed up the Carbonara…I forgot to put the boiling water in the egg mixture and I am sure a few other things.  Cooking while drinking a ton of wine (Chianti to be exact) in Italy does not necessarily help make a master chef.  Good thing the pancetta was SO good and flavorful that the pasta was not completely destroyed.

That is the thing with Italy.  The food is so good on its own, it makes cooking fairly easy!  Now that I do not have unbelievably fresh pancetta, fresh seasoning, and other delicious ingredients, it takes a little more effort and attention in the kitchen.

Jordan, Laura & I on a day trip to Pisa (sad I can actually say years ago…)

Carbonara Sauce

*Serves 4 people

Salt & pepper to taste

Crushed red pepper (eyeball it!)

Olive Oil

1 lb pasta (I prefer thick spaghetti)

4 large eggs

Garlic (3 cloves)

1/3 lb pancetta

Parsley (preferably fresh, but flakes work!)

Romano Cheese

Mix eggs in a separate bowl.  Add a little bit of salt and pepper, milk, red pepper, and parsley.  Set aside.

Start boiling your pasta water and cook pasta until desired.  I recommend cooking it more al dente for carbonara.  Save a ladleful of boiling pasta water to add to your egg mixture.

Finely chop the pancetta.  In a large skillet or wok, lightly saute garlic until translucent.  Add the pancetta and cook over medium heat.  Cook a total of 4-5 minutes, or until brown.

Drain the pasta and add directly to the skillet with the pancetta.  Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and continuously mix the pasta until the egg mixture is fully mixed in.  Add salt, pepper and cheese to taste.  Offer extra cheese to guest and enjoy!

The Egg Mixture

The Pancetta (unfortunately from a package)

Jordan enjoying my “American” Carbonara!

Halfway through the Meal…

I had not made Pasta Carbonara in a few years, and will admit I was a little nervous!  It’s not a difficult pasta to make, but I feel as if it is easy to make it under flavored or “eggy.”  I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out perfectly flavored and very good, in spite of the pre-packaged pancetta, which had little flavor and was extremely thin.  I was feeling a little under the weather all weekend, even though I had a surprise visitor (!!), or else I would have made an adventure to the butcher on Halstead.  I guess that will have to wait for another day…maybe when the weather stops acting up and just stays warm!

My parents will be here on Saturday, but I am hoping to make pizza next Sunday!!  Until then…healthy eating 🙂  Have a great week!