Italian Food Love Affair Week 2

Before I dive into my recipes for the week, I want to tell you a little about my food philosophies:

  1. Love. It’s probably fair to say that food is my love language. It’s how I show love, by making food to share. Feeling sad? Here’s a cookie. Need to celebrate? Here’s a cookie (or a cake). Hungry? Here’s a cookie. Injured? A cookie will fix you right up. Don’t like cookies? That’s weird, but here’s a taco. While food may not solve all problems, very few people get mad if you give them a cookie.
  2. Community. Food brings people together. EVERYONE needs food. Social gatherings are built around the need to eat. I can’t even think of the last time I got together with friends or family where we didn’t share a meal together. Everyone has a different view of food, based on what they grew up with, and I love to find ways to bridge together ideas on food flavors, cultures, and individual tastes. I’m just about to start reading a book on this topic, and I am excited to learn more about how we learn to eat.
  3. Health. While I don’t focus on calling out following a specific diet, or avoiding specific ingredients, I do try to be healthful in my approach to cooking. Healthful can have a variety of definitions, so for me it means cooking more than I go out to eat, using fresh ingredients, and maximizing use of specific flavors to get more bang for your calorie buck. I use very little from the “interior” of the grocery store, and I find ways to swap healthier ingredients and make a seemingly indulgent meal into something nourishing for my body. I believe in balance, which means I may make a healthier meal and serve it with an indulgent dessert!
  4. Process. Last but not least, the super nerdy side – how I approach cooking is similar to some of the concepts I have learned in Supply Chain Planning, my day job. I’ll save those details for another riveting post, but a few key concepts – scheduling, inventory, batch sizes, and expiration of materials. Once upon a time, I texted my husband after a rough day at work and said a particular thing was for dinner because I needed to use up expiring raw materials.

All of these factors drive my passion for food and being in the kitchen and I hope to share more on these topics in the coming months!

On to my love affair with Italian food – week 2! Let it be said that neither of my Italian meals this week allowed me to do any meal prep, with the exception of marinating chicken for the carbonara. While it was a lot of work to pull dinner together after work, the process of preparing food is a de-stressor to me. It’s like creating an art project that I get to eat.

I started with chicken carbonara, which turned out to be a very easy recipe to execute. Pasta noodles are coated with a creamy sauce that includes pancetta, egg yolk, and Parmesan. While all of those ingredients have protein, I knew this was a richer pasta dish so I wanted to add some lean protein and veggies to the meal with chicken and brussels sprouts. I loved the flavor of the final dish, however, it is a meal best served immediately so I only made 2 servings.

Chicken carbonara & roasted Brussels Sprouts

Italian Chicken marinade

  • 1 chicken breast
  • Olive oil, red wine vinegar
  • Garlic, Italian seasoning blend, salt & pepper
  • Marinade overnight and sear while the pasta boils.

Carbonara Pasta

  • 1/4 pound angel hair pasta, spaghetti or fettuccine
  • 1 shallot, diced small
  • 1/2 cup diced pancetta or bacon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan
  1. Boil pasta as instructed on package
  2. While pasta is boiling, saute pancetta for 5 minutes, then add shallot, once both are cooked thoroughly, turn off the heat.
  3. While pancetta heats and pasta boils, whisk egg yolk, cream & parmesan in a small bowl.
  4. Remove pasta from water and add to the pan with pancetta.
  5. Slowly add the egg, cream & parm mixture to the pasta, stirring constantly. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Serve immediately, topped with sliced chicken breast.
  7. For brussels sprouts, cut sprouts in half, drizzle with olive oil, and salt & pepper. Roast at 425 degrees, check after 10 minutes and every few minutes after. Size of the sprouts will affect roasting time. Roast until leaves are browned and crispy.

For my second meal of the week, I chose Sicilian steak & Parmesan risotto. I rarely make steak at home. For a long time, it’s made me nervous. I didn’t want to invest in an expensive piece of meat and not have it turn out. It’s one indulgence I have preferred to get at a restaurant. In the last year or two, I’ve gotten over my fear of steak and have learned a few ways to prepare it successfully.

This Sicilian steak called for using the broiler! That was perfect because there was no way I was going to clean the snow off my grill this week. I marinated a ribeye steak in olive oil & garlic for just 30 minutes. Then, I coated each side with a mixture of breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and oregano. I used my cast iron skillet and positioned it about 10 inches below the broiler. It only took about 6 minutes per side to get to medium rare, and to avoid burning the topping.

Sicilian steak topped with breadcrumbs & parm, served with parmesan risotto and Italian salad.

On the side, I made Parmesan risotto. Risotto has a reputation for being difficult, but really, it just takes patience. I sauteed diced shallot in olive oil, toasted the arborio rice, and then slowly added warm chicken broth, stirring fairly constantly on low heat. Not as constantly as say, caramel, but often enough so that every grain of rice had the opportunity to soak up the liquid without sticking to bottom of the pan.

I was able to broil the steak, make a salad, and entertain my pup Jenkins during the process. I spilled some broth down the front of the stove, so he was on standby for clean up! After adding about 6 cups of broth, one cup at a time, I added about a half cup of white wine, and a half cup of freshly shredded parmesan. The total process took maybe 30 minutes. The result was a GIANT pot of ultra creamy risotto. I purposely made extra – so stayed tuned for what I do with the leftovers!

I wasn’t able to make anything new from Half Baked Harvest this week so I’m thumbing through my cookbooks to pick something tasty (although not Italian) for next week’s menu! However, my husband appeared as guest chef to make 2 recipes for our Valentine’s Dinner! More on that next week. 🙂

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