Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recipe Spotlight: Fettuccine Alfredo con Prosciutto, Italian-Style Salad and Bruschetta

I love to cook for friends, and last night I made dinner for two of Kevin and my's favorite people- Stefan and Zach. We enjoyed an Italian meal prior to watching Monday Night Football, and although the menu could not be less "football themed," the boys still loved it and ate every bite!

Our first course was an Italian-style salad, to which I added a special secret ingredient that the boys loved- jarred banana peppers. Many restaurants, such as Olive Garden, Topper's and Papa John's, add banana peppers to salads and pizzas to add a little flare, so I gave it a try. The spicy, vinegary crunch and background heat took the salad to another level. Don't like heat? Go for the mild ones- they still have the remarkable flavor and texture that is sure to prevent "boring salad" syndrome.

Italian-Style Salad
Fresh veggies and spicy banana peppers create the perfect starter salad. 
Serves 6

6 c. romaine lettuce
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1/2 c. jarred banana peppers, chopped
1/4 red onion, sliced
1/2 pepper, any color 
1 carrot stick, shredded
1/2 cucumber, seeds removed and sliced
1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. Italian salad dressing, I like Wishbone Light Balsamic and Basil Vinaigrette

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss thoroughly with dressing and serve immediately.

Our appetizer was my classic bruschetta. As I was busy in the kitchen preparing the rest of the meal, I prepped the ingredients and had Zach assemble the bruschetta at the table. He appreciated the time and care that bruschetta takes; I believe that this appreciation makes food even more delicious. Maybe it's the anticipation that you're about to eat something tasty, perhaps it's understanding all of the ingredients that go into one dish, or perhaps it's just the time and attention spent on a project, but Zach sure did love the finished bruschetta and ate his share after the task was completed!

Zach having a blast while drizzling the bruschetta with the balsamic glaze. 

Delicious bruschetta made with love! See Sep. 10 post for recipe.

The main course was Fettuccine Alfredo, a dish that I don't make very often because, well, it's not good for you. Heavy cream, loads of butter and mounds of pasta are of course delicious, but something I try to save for special occasions. However, while browsing the Food Network website I found a recipe that is a lot better than others I've seen. It uses half and half instead of heavy cream and only two tablespoons of butter. And I was intrigued with using prosciutto instead of something "normal" like chicken. Not only is prosciutto delicious- creamy, sweet and salty- but it's already cooked! The addition of nutmeg also brought the pasta up another level and added a background warmth, which is ideal with cream sauces. The result was a tasty bowl of pasta that, served with veggie-filled salad and bruschetta, made for a well-balanced meal! (Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray on foodnetwork.com.)

Fettuccine Alfredo con Prosciutto

Creamy fettuccine and salty prosciutto are a delicious combination in this classic Italian-American dish with a twist! 
Serves 4

1 (12 ounce) package egg fettuccine
1/3 pound prosciutto di Parma
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
1 cup (3 healthy handfuls) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 pinches ground nutmeg or about 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Coarse ground black pepper
A pinch coarse salt

Bring salted water to a rolling boil for the pasta and cook to package directions for al dente pasta.

Slice prosciutto ham into thin strips across. Separate ham ribbons and loosely pile them up and set aside.

Preheat a large skillet over moderate heat. Drain the pasta. Add the butter to the pan and melt. Add half-and-half to the melted butter. Stirring constantly, add cheese and cook sauce 1 minute. Season with nutmeg, pepper, and a pinch of salt. Turn off heat under sauce and add pasta to the skillet. Toss pasta until sauce coats the noodles evenly. Add prosciutto ribbons and toss to evenly distribute them. Mangia!

Wine of the night

I enjoyed the meal with Albero 2006 Tempranillo, a Spanish red wine. I found that the light tannins perfectly balanced with the creamy fettuccine and feta cheese atop the bruschetta. It's neither too dry nor too sweet, and it becomes quite smooth if decanted or left in the glass for a while. And the best part? It's only $5.99 at Trader Joe's!

No comments:

Post a Comment