Sunday, March 26, 2017

Creamy Limoncello Pasta And Chicken

It's spring and for me, that means it's time to post another recipe with lots of lemon flavour!

This past year, I've been working on my own version of Limoncello Pasta!

There are a wide variety of recipes for this tasty pasta dish on the net. Naturally, the one constant is the Limoncello! Depending on where you live, a bottle of Limoncello can seem a bit pricy, but just remember that it can be used in cocktails, desserts, sauces and main course dishes. It also has a lengthy shelf life after being opened as long as the lid is on tight and it is stored in a cool dry place. I bought a 750 ml / 26 ounce bottle for about $25 + tax at my local liquor store here in Manitoba.

The recipe I've come up with is based on a combination of ingredients and quantities from several recipes. As with any recipe I post, I've made a number of changes and tweaks for my version. Here are some notes on what I've tried and how it worked out.

The Pasta:
Many recipes suggest linguini, spaghetti or even fettuccini - all of which are wonderful choices. I've made this with linguini and fettuccini. I've also tried a medium shell pasta which didn't work as well. The shells seemed to want to clump together and not hold the sauce as well as I had hoped. I've used rotini (cork screw) a couple of times and was quite happy with the results. Ultimately, the choice of pasta is up to you! Just remember to undercook it slightly in the salted water as the pasta will be added to the sauce and cooked a bit more before serving.

The Cheese:
Most recipes for Limoncello Pasta will call for "Parmigiano Reggiano". As delicious as it is, it is also incredibly expensive! A 225 gram / 8 ounce piece can cost you well over $10!! It's just not in everyone's price range and especially not in mine! So, what to do? Well, the first time I tried to make a Limoncello Pasta, I just used a white herbed cheddar. I wasn't happy with the results as it didn't seem to melt well into the sauce and actually seemed a bit gritty. The second time I tried to make it, I decided to try an herb and garlic spreadable cream cheese. The result was a flavourful creamy sauce! Another benefit to using the herb and garlic cream cheese is that a 225 gram / 8 ounce container can often be found on sale for about $3!

The Cream:
Almost all of the recipes I looked at, called for heavy cream or whipping cream. This is another item that isn't in my budget. Not to mention the extra calories! Instead, I used a combo of 1/2 & 1/2 with light sour cream. It created a very similar texture without the sweetness of the cream.

Additional Notes:
- This pasta can be made with or without chicken. I've only used fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The chicken can be cut into bite sized pieces or strips. The choice is yours!
- If you don't like peppers then they can be left out.
- Add more or less garlic depending on preference.
- Fresh basil leaves is a MUST in the recipe! They add a dash of colour and the flavour of the fresh can't be beat! Dried basil works in some recipes but NOT in this one!

This past December, I made this dish for two of my gal pals for our annual holiday dinner. I served this pasta dish with a tossed salad, homemade mini bread sticks and herb butter. To drink? A sparkling white grape juice. They thought it was absolutely delicious!

Creamy Limoncello Pasta And Chicken
225 gram / 8 ounces rotini (spiral) pasta (for 4 portions)
350 grams / 12 ounces fresh boneless skinless chicken breast
1 large lemon
2-3 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup Limoncello
1 cup 1/2 + 1/2
1/4 cup light sour cream
40 grams / 1 1/2 ounce package fresh basil
2/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced yellow, orange or red sweet bell pepper
1 225 gram / 8 ounce container herb and garlic cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste
green onion for garnish
Zest and juice the lemon. Set aside.

Mince or finely chop the garlic. Set aside.

Combine the lemon juice, Limoncello, 1/2 + 1/2 and sour cream. Set aside.

Remove the basil leaves from the stems and chop or tear the leaves into small pieces. You will get about 1 cup but don't worry if it is a bit more or less! Set aside.

Cut the chicken into small bite size pieces. Heat a small amount of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) in a large deep skillet. Add the chicken and brown. 

While the chicken is browning, bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water liberally. Add pasta and stir. Reduce heat to medium high and cook till el dante. (Times vary depending on type of pasta used. Check the package for cooking times). Drain the pasta - reserving about 1 cup cooking water in case it is needed to add to the sauce if it gets to thick. DO NOT rinse the pasta!

Meanwhile, while the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking - back to the pan with the chicken in it. Reduce heat to medium and add the onion and pepper - sauté for a few minutes then add the lemon zest, garlic and creamy mixture. Cut in the cream cheese and stir to melt. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes - stirring occasionally.

Once the sauce starts to slightly thicken, add the pasta and stir to coat. Add the basil and mix thoroughly. Taste the sauce and add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water and stir.

Serve hot pasta with a sprinkle of freshly chopped green onion on top and a side of green salad or veg.



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