Most of us aren’t familiar with actual Italian food. Most of us are familar with “Italianesque.” Think about anything you eat at Macaroni Grill. It’s like eating at Cantina Laredo and saying you’ve had Mexican food.
Of course, Cantina Laredo has its place, and so does Italianesque. The nice thing about Italianesque is that (i) it’s easy and (ii) it tastes good. The problem with it is that a lot of people stop at spaghetti with bottled sauce. The difference between spaghetti with Classico pasta sauce, and something that’s worth eating, is about five minutes. But how many times have we all opted for spaghetti from a box and sauce from a jar?
Somewhere in there is a metaphor for life.
So, here’s a little something for those of you that want more out of your quick food. Total cooking and prep time: about 15 minutes. It’s not Italian, but it tastes good. And since it only takes about 5 minutes longer than cooking spaghetti…well, as I said, somewhere there’s a metaphor lurking about…
Ravioli Primavera with Chicken
Start with some fresh, firm vegetables. I like to use a leek, a carrot, about 1/2 a bell pepper, and some celery.
1 chicken breast
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp. sour cream
Basil (fresh leaves if you’ve got ’em, flakes if not)
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. butter
Cheese Ravioli (refrigerated, or home made, if you own a pasta press)
What to do with it:
Cut the chicken into about 3/4 inch pieces, and the vegetables about half that size. Mince the garlic and shred the basil if you’ve got it.
Sautee the chicken in olive oil with the garlic. Add some salt. Your water should be on and heating at this time for the pasta.
Once the chicken is about 3/4 cooked, add the basil, wine and vegetables, and keep your stove on medium. (If your pasta isn’t in the pot by now, it should be.) Continue cooking until the chicken is done. Now, add the sour cream, and mix it up into the vegetables. Keep cooking on medium heat until your vegetables are just about to the firmness you want.
Add the butter and cook the chicken and veggies until you’ve cooked away about 1/2 of your your liquid. Throw in some more salt and some pepper to taste. Now it’s time for the corn starch.
If you haven’t played with corn starch before, the purpose is to thicken whatever liquid you’ve got. Right now, your sauce should be pretty thin. Add about a tablespoon of corn starch to 1/8 cup cold water and stir until the starch is completely dissolved. Now, slowly add the starch to your chicken and veggies while stirring. Keep an eye on the thickness–this is purely a matter of personal prefernce. Once you’ve got your sauce to a thickness you want, add the pasta and toss.
The butter adds just enough fat that, when combined with the thickening of the corn starch, makes this taste significantly more rich than it actually is.
You can easily substitute shrimp for chicken but cook the shrimp after your vegetables. Other veggies work as well, but pay attention to how quickly they will cook: if you’re going to add mushrooms, for instance, you’ll want to add them after the rest of your vegetables.