Sunday, April 17, 2011

Quick Whole Wheat Fettuccine Alfredo

While I relish long hours in the kitchen slaving over intricate dishes, sometimes I also just need to throw together a quick dinner for my husband and myself on short notice. As much as I'd like to achieve novel culinary greatness with eat meal that I cook, sometimes you just need some satisfying, solid recipes with common ingredients. Although these are ingredients that many people will naturally have on-hand, because it is so simple, the quality of the cheese is of the utmost importance. I've fervently loyal to Wisconsin cheeses and use Hook's Parmesan and the nearly incomparable SarVecchio, which is widely regarded as one of the best Parmesans in the country and is used by incredible chefs at fine dining restaurants across the country (it makes many appearances on the menu at L'Etoile and I've even seen Cat Cora use it on Iron Chef America). I realize not everyone is privileged enough to have access to these wonderful cheeses, but this dish definitely requires an upgrade from pregrated Kraft. The deep richness and flavor from the cheese and half-and-half is warming and soothing but balanced out well by the nutty, whole wheat pasta. The next time you need a quick dinner or just a bowl full of comfort, keep this quick pasta dish in mind.

Quick Fettuccine Alfredo
serves 2

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup half-and-half (or whole milk, cream, or a combination)
1/4 cup grated high quality Parmesan or Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. whole wheat fettuccine
1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish

1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallot and cook until shallot is softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisking constantly (a flat whisk is great here), add flour gradually to butter and cook until the mixture no longer tastes like flour, 1 to 3 minutes. Slowly add half-and-half, whisking constantly to achieve a smooth mixture. Continue cooking and stirring until mixture is slightly thickened, then whisk in the cheese. Continue cooking over low heat to desired thickness and season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 9 minutes (or according to package direction). Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

3. If necessary, add some of the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce to desired consistency. Add the fresh parsley, mix well, and then add the hot pasta to the sauce and toss well to coat. Garnish with additional parsley and cheese, if desired, and serve immediately.

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