Creamy Pesto Fettuccini Alfredo with Grilled Chicken

The other night I got a brilliant idea: mix homemade pesto into the base of my alfredo sauce for a creamy and delightful pasta. I also added grilled chicken, but you could always add grilled shrimp, or serve as a vegetarian dish.

In August I made a huge batch of basil pesto because my basil plant was going bonkers! (the recipe for the pesto is posted under sauces). You could use store-bought pesto (basil or roasted red pepper, or sun dried tomato would all work) but make sure that you get a really good one – sometimes you pay for what you get!

Ingredients for the Marinade

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, butterflied (or 10-15 raw, deveined and peeled jumbo shrimp)
  • A few shakes of each: garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, mustard powder, salt and ground pepper
  • 4-5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp. white wine (I used pinot grigio)

Ingredients for the Sauce

  • Fettuccini noodles
  • 1 stick of butter, salted is best for this
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup milk (2% or whole is preferable)
  • ½ to ¾ cup freshly grated parmesan (you must be careful when adding the parm to the hot milk mixture or it will clump – details to follow)
  • A lot of freshly ground pepper (maybe about 1 tbsp)
  • A lot of salt (maybe 1 tsp – or more to taste)
  • 2 tsp. basil pesto (thawed – I froze my pesto into ice cube trays when I made it and then I defrost what I want before I use it)
  • Basil oil (optional)

Directions

Butterfly the chicken by taking a very sharp knife and cutting the chicken in half lengthwise (I buy Perdue chicken breasts when they’re on sale -they come with the tenderloin still attached so you may have to trim that off as well). Marinate the chicken (or shrimp) in a few shakes of garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Add a splash of white wine (I used pinot grigio) and about 4-5 tbsp. olive oil. Mix altogether in a large Ziploc bag and let sit for about 2 hours. *If you are using shrimp instead of chicken then you will need to skewer them onto kebobs (if they are 4\wooden make sure they have been soaked in water for at least an hour)*

Preheat the grill (I use charcoal so it takes about 30 minutes to preheat). When really hot, add the chicken and grill for about 3-5 minutes on each side. You want it to be nice and char-grilled. Take chicken off grill and set aside.

Melt the butter on low. Once butter is melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth and thickened slightly.

At this point, raise heat to medium and add the milk and whisk until thickened. Add a fair amount of freshly ground pepper (at least 1 tsp) and salt. Turn off heat and wait about 2 minutes. Add the parm and whisk immediately. Do not add the parm to scolding hot milk or it will congeal and the dish will be ruined (if this does happen, which it has happened to every cook I know, then just use a strainer to fish out the congealed parm and then  re-add the parm to the milk mixture).

Whisk the alfredo sauce until thickened. Add the pesto and stir. Taste to see if it needs salt or pepper. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little more milk and whisk. The sauce should continue to thicken once it sits.

At this point, cook the fettuccini noodles, about 10-12 minutes. Drain the noodles and add to the sauce (you can also just serve the sauce on top of the noodles, instead of mixing altogether in the pot). If you do add the noodles to the sauce, let the whole concoction sit for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve the pasta with grilled chicken on top and drizzle with basil oil.

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