Lisa hosts twice a year, and typically there are about six people including her. I like to make enough for me to have a plate as well, and now I have to consider Calvin having some too, so it really comes out to cooking for eight. Really not a big deal- I cook like that on most occasions anyway, which is why we always have leftovers (and i'm Italian, so there's that too).
|It's like this, only minus the books.|
|Raw (kinda) in the pan|
|Nice and crispy|
|If you eat it with fruit, it's healthy!|
Along with the bread cheese, I put out a loaded baked potato dip made from green onions, freshly cooked and crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, seasoned salt, onion salt, and pepper. For dipping, I served pretzel thins. Nothing earth-shattering, but a nice compliment to the heavier bread cheese.
For the main dish, in the days leading up to book club, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do- something pasta based, but not boring. I mean, not something that you'd have on a Wednesday night at home, but something special. I picked up about two pounds of gemelli (meaning "twin") pasta from Whole Foods, so I knew I had my base. Granted, it was a really, really wide open base, but a base nonetheless. I've always liked a buttery pasta, whether it's a buttery garlic or butter with shrimp, so I figured that I'd do a buttery sauce, but top it with another sauce. I guess making the butter be more of a coating for the pasta, then topping it with a cheesy alfredo...that sounded so good!
The pasta would be good just like that- but it would look boring. White pasta, white sauce....just blah. It needed to be spiced up a little. I thought adding a little protein in the form of chicken was a no-brainer, so I planned on some chicken breast cutlets. To finish off the pasta, I looked through my cabinets and found a jar of sun dried tomatoes, and I had my main dish set.
The pasta was cooked in the standard way- salted water brought to a boil, pasta added, cooked al dente, then drained. Once it was drained, it went back into the pot that it boiled in and I added some butter. There wasn't much else involved in preparing the pasta!
Creating a sauce can be very difficult or very easy. I love alfredo sauce, but I absolutely loathe the kind that comes in a jar. It's always way too thick and never tastes like cheese. A while back, for one reason or another I bought a packet of Kroger powdered alfredo sauce mix, and it turned out to be delicious! I think I bought it because I was going to mix it with some red sauce we had, but I don't really remember. Making it with milk, butter, and then adding some garlic powder and a generous amount of Parmesan cheese gave it the perfect consistency- thick, but not too thick, thin but not watery. It was a good flavor to mix with the background flavors of butter, pasta, chicken and sun dried tomatoes.
|Working the iron|
|Prepping the sun dried tomato mixture|
|It was a little bit more dramatic in person...|
|I could serve them just like this and they're still really yummy|
|But....cheese makes everything better.|
The beans are fantastic on their own, but I wanted to make a couple of sauces to give everyone the option to dip them if they so desired. The first sauce was a buttermilk ranch (from Aldi, the absolute best store-bought buttermilk ranch I've ever had) Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black peppercorns. The other was a fire-roasted tomato sauce with a bit of cheese added. Both turned out great, and were quickly prepared with things I have in my fridge.
Along with everything else, no Italian meal is complete without some bread for the table. I had purchased a loaf of rustic ciabatta bread, brushed the top of it with butter and garlic powder, and baked it in my toaster. Tearing off as much as you want from the loaf is such a great dinner experience.
|About to serve|