Growing up I was a picky eater. While my family would have spaghetti and meatballs, I would have buttered noodles with salt, no pepper. I even have photos documenting me trying my first bite of a BLT sandwich. It was a big deal! During this stage of my life, my orders at restaurants were pretty predictable. For a long time I would only order cheese pizza, then when I got to high school my friends would want to eat at Mexican restaurants, so I eventually learned to like chicken quesadillas. Each year, the night before the women’s tennis state tournament, the team would all go out to eat at Olive Garden, so I learned to order their chicken alfredo. Until about my senior year of high school, those were my general orders and I didn’t venture beyond them.
The interesting thing is, once I did venture beyond them I have not gone back since. Suddenly those flavors of chicken and cheese were monotonous, without excitement or dimension. Besides, I figured every restaurant has them, so why order something that I can get anywhere? I don’t think I could tell you the last time I ordered chicken alfredo for myself. I had never made it either, until out of the blue I decided to last Friday night.
Chicken Alfredo with Whole Wheat pasta and Zucchini Ribbons
My notes: If you are feeding this to kids you might want to peal the zucchini so it can be “camouflaged” and hide in the pasta. I know it’s deceitful, but I think it’s OK in this case. You could even take it one step further and steam some cauliflower and puree it with the sauce. I doubt anyone would be the wiser. Also, I used butter instead of olive oil because I believe you can get a much richer flavor by browning the butter than using olive oil, which you need here since the rest of the ingredients are rather “light.” Finally, if you are making this for dinner guests and want to give it the “wow” factor, I might add a couple of drops of white truffle oil.
Serves 2-4 depending on whether you’re serving children, adults, or ravenous male teenagers
2 4-6oz. chicken breasts
1 zucchini, julienned
salt and pepper
Whole-wheat fettuccine 1-1 ¼ inch wide circle of pasta in your fist
½ tablespoon of butter
2 good size cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour
½ cup of low sodium chicken stock
1 cup of milk (I used skim, but if you want to use 2% or whole feel free)
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
1/4-1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (use less to keep it healthy, more if you want to up the flavor)
In a medium saucepan melt the ½ tablespoon of butter and cook on medium heat until it starts to brown, about five minutes. While the butter melts, fill up your pasta pot with water, season the water generously with salt, cover the pot with its lid, and bring to a boil. When the butter has turned a caramel colored brown add the mince garlic, cook for thirty seconds, stirring twice, and then add 1 ½ T. of flour and stir to incorporate. Turn heat to low and add the chicken stock and then the milk. Cook over low to medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is to your desired thickness. Stir in the grated parmesan so it melts. While your sauce is cooking, heat your sauté pan with olive oil over medium high heat, butterfly your chicken breasts or pound them down so they are about ½ inch thick, season them with salt and pepper, and cook them in the sauté pan until golden brown on both sides and cooked through (180 degrees F). While your chicken is cooking, your pasta water should start to boil, add your pasta then, and cook until it’s al dente. Once your chicken is cooked, remove from pan and let it cool while you add the zucchini ribbons for a quick sauté. Add the zucchini and the finished sauce to the drained pasta. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and serve!