Student food blog: Chicken and red pesto fettuccine

Sophie Edmonds
Sophie Edmonds
The other day three of us from our University of Otago food quality management paper took a field trip to the Pasta D'oro factory in Dunedin. Other than leaving with a new appreciation for hand-crafted fresh pasta we also left with a few goodies, including a nice jar of sun-dried tomato pesto.

To use the pesto, I decided to bring out this old recipe that I haven't made for ages. It's a wee bit on the expensive side but it's good if you want to impress the ladies or that special man in your life. After all, the way to a man's heart is undoubtedly through his stomach and the best food to get you there is, hands down, a good bowl of pasta.

Apparently pies are also a good method (according to the male currently present in the room). 

Traditional Italian pasta dishes are simple, using only a few ingredients. Typically, only a very small amount of meat is served with them, as most Italian dishes originated hundreds of years ago when most people didn't have a lot of money to spend on meat.

It wasn't until the Italian migration to the United States that the meat portions became bigger, to show their families their new-found prosperity in the new land.

This is not a good dinner to have if you are trying to eat healthily, but it is good for the soul.

You can buy red pesto relatively cheaply if you leave the chilled section and have a look in the pasta sauce section. I found 160g jars for $3.50 on special. I also used light cream in this recipe; it's the one that comes in the light-blue cream bottle. Sure, it is still pretty high in fat but it is not as bad as the full-fat stuff.

Once again, parmesan cheese makes an appearance in this. Mum and Dad bought me two blocks when they came to visit me six weeks ago and it was just tonight that I opened the second block. If you can't afford a block of it, substitute the parmesan in the sauce for a cheaper cheese then sprinkle over a small amount of the parmesan as a garnish. That way you will still get the thick creamy sauce as well as the taste of parmesan cheese.

The cheapest way to buy sun-dried tomatoes is at the supermarket deli. Ask for 100g, or about 10 tomatoes. That way you don't have to invest in a big jar mostly filled with oil anyway. They are not the best quality but who are we to be fussy? House-brand pitted black olives worked a treat at just $1.49 a jar on special.

This recipe also says to add ½ cup of port or sherry. I didn't have any and I didn't feel like forking out for a whole bottle that I wasn't going to use so I left it out. It still worked out fine so don't worry about it unless you do actually have some lying around.

Chicken and red pesto fettuccine
Serves 4 

2 Tbsp cooking oil

2 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless, diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1/3 cup black pitted olives left whole

½ cup roughly chopped fresh basil

1 cup light cream

1/3 cup grated parmesan (or cheaper cheese if you don't mind sacrificing the flavour)

1/3 cup red pesto 

salt and pepper

1 packet of fresh fettuccine or enough dry fettuccine to feed the crowd.

more basil, grated parmesan and pesto to garnish.

Heat the oil in a relatively deep frying pan and cook the chicken and garlic until the chicken browns lightly. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, olives and red pesto. Cook while still stirring for another two minutes. Add the cream, cheese and salt and pepper. Add the basil leaves. Simmer until the sauce thickens.

Meanwhile, cook your fettuccine in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta, return to the pot then pour over the sauce. Toss so that the pasta is coated nicely. Serve with another small dollop of red pesto, a sprinkling of grated parmesan and a basil leaf or two.

We had a dear friend come for dinner and she brought with her some gluten-free pasta so she could join in on the carby festivities.

This was definitely worth the money and the calories.



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