October is National Pasta Month, and today is National Pasta Day. Did you know there are over 150 different kinds of Common Pastas to choose from? According to the Encyclopedia of Pasta (yeah, a real thing) there are 310 specific kinds of pasta, with 1,300 different names. While noodles were invented in China, pasta is usually associated with Italian Cooking. Yet pasta can be found in dishes worldwide.
The size and shape of a particular pasta often determine the best sauce to pair with it. For example, linguine is generally served with a lighter, thinner buttery sauce to avoid breaking the noodles. On the other hand, fettuccine, which is less delicate, can handle a heavier sauce such as an Alfredo.
A pasta such as Penne is awesome with meats and vegetables, The tube-shaped pasta originated in Campania, a region in Southern Italy. Penne is probably one of the more well-known pasta shapes, found in most markets and grocery stores. Besides spaghetti, Penne is frequently found on the menus of Italian restaurants throughout the United States. It should come as no surprise that uniquely American cuisine such as Cajun Cooking would utilize Penne in some of their dishes.
A Cajun Celebration of Pasta Day
Cajun Chicken Pasta
New Orleans Salad
Warm French Bread with Garlic Butter
Cajun Chicken Pasta
1 lb boneless Chicken Breasts
4 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
8 oz uncooked Penne Pasta
2 tablespoons Butter, divided
1 small Red Bell Pepper
1 small Green Bell Pepper
1 Celery Rib
1/2 White Onion
1/2 cup fresh Button Mushrooms
4 Green Onions, tops only
Handful Fresh basil
3 Roma Tomatoes
1 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon dried Basil
1/4 teaspoon Lemon-pepper Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
Black Pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Cut chicken into 2-inch by 1/2-inch strips, set aside. Stem, core and dice bell peppers, set aside. Finely mince celery and onion, set aside. Clean mushrooms, slice and set aside. Slice green onions, set aside. Mince basil, set aside. Seed and dice tomatoes, set aside.
Toss chicken with Cajun seasoning; let stand 15 minutes. While the chicken rests, cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat; sauté chicken until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken from pan, keep warm.
In same pan, heat remaining butter over medium-high heat; sauté bell peppers, mushrooms celery, minced onions and green onion tops until peppers are crisp-tender, about 7 minutes.
Stir in heavy cream; season with salt, dried basil, Lemon-pepper, garlic powder and black pepper; bring to a boil. Cook and stir until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in pasta and chicken; heat through.
Remove pan from heat. Top with tomatoes and basil. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve directly from the skillet.
New Orleans Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
1/2 cup White Vinegar
1 tablespoon Honey
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Salt
2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
1 cup Vegetable Oil
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, honey, mustard, pepper, salt, garlic and oil until thoroughly combined. Chill until serving.
1 head Romaine Lettuce
1 head Butter Leaf Lettuce
1/2 head Purple Cabbage
2 Yellow Bell Peppers
Tear the salad greens into pieces, scatter over a serving platter. Finely shred the cabbage, set aside. Core and slice the bell peppers into strips, set aside. Cut the cucumber into thin rounds.
Arrange salad greens on a large platter. Tuck the cucumber in among the greens. Layer cabbage and bell pepper slivers over greens so that all the colors are visible on the platter.
Serve with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette on the side, allowing diners to drizzle as they please.
Warm French Bread with Melted Garlic Butter
1 loaf French Bread
1/2 cup Butter, divided
1 tablespoon Roasted Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon Italian Breadcrumbs
1/2 tablespoons Parsley Flakes
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
Melt 1/4 cup butter in a small microwave safe bowl. Add garlic powder, breadcrumbs and parsley flakes. Smash remaining 1/4 of soft butter into the mixture to create a nice paste of butter that spreads easily on the soft bread. Taste, if more flavor is desired, add a little more garlic powder.
Split bread lengthwise, leaving about 1/2 inch still connected to create a butterflied loaf. CAREFULLY open bread on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the cut-side of bread with butter mixture. CAREFULLY close bread, turn the loaf on its side so that open side is up, hinged side is down. Slice bread half way through, leave “hinge” in tact.
CAREFULLY open bread, place in oven open to warm. Warm until lightly toasted. Using the parchment paper for support, slide the warm bread onto a clean tea towel. Wrap the towel around the bread, then and place into a French Bread Basket.
To serve, pass wrapped loaf around the table, inviting diners to “break” off a piece of bread.