Yesterday afternoon I arrived home from Austin City Limits. It seems like a year ago (most certainly not last Thursday) that I flew to Texas and skipped right into LiLi‘s open arms. It was like a scene out of a movie, you guys. There was squee-ing and hugging and jumping, and probably a few people watching us who thought we might make out any second (sorry to disappoint, Dallas). After three days of constant sunshine, intermittent assaults on our eardrums, and the rare consumption of flavorless festival food, I arrived home in Denver feeling tired, with the lingering fear that I might still be covered in residual sunscreen, and harboring a varsity craving for fresh fruit, and funnily enough, pasta.
The craving for fresh fruit was easy enough to understand – the week before I left, I had been working my way through 10 pounds of apples I bought at the farmer’s market, sometimes consuming 2 or 3 apples a day. I barely consumed any fruit in Texas, simply because there wasn’t a good grocery store near our hotel. So I think I was simply going through withdrawal in that respect. So I remedied that problem immediately when I got home… I went to the store and bought 5 pounds of pears. Normal, right?
The pasta craving I can’t really explain. But I still took care of it. (I belong to the “If the Craving Lasts for More Than Two Days Then It’s Probably a Vitamin or Mineral That You’re Low On” school of thought when it comes to cravings. As long as you’re not hoovering a 3-pound bag of cookies, of course.)
Fettucini alfredo has always been a favorite pasta dish of mine.
It might have something to do with the cream and butter involved… but that’s just a guess.
I discovered the Pioneer Woman’s recipe a little over a year ago, and it’s my favorite way to make alfredo now. But, as many of the Pioneer Woman’s dishes (I’m also looking at you, Giada and Paula and Ina), I find that the butter and cream in this recipe are a little… overwhelming. Like, I don’t need a FULL stick of butter in the sauce. That just seems like overkill. And I like to throw in a few vegetables, too, so that I can rationalize the fact that I’m essentially consuming a plate of carbs covered in 2 different kinds of animal fat for my dinner. Generally I like to throw in a handful of spinach into the hot pasta, because spinach is one of my favorite veggies.
But when I was making this last night, I tossed the pasta with the alfredo sauce, and I couldn’t get out of my head how much better the dish would taste with a bit of vinegar sprinkled over the top. I thought of this, of course, just as I realized that I had had a major brain fart and had forgotten to toss in the spinach. Then it struck me – have you ever seen those pizzas topped with fresh greens? – why not put a salad on top of pasta?
This might be the only way I eat alfredo pasta for the foreseeable future. The texture of the fresh greens is the perfect contrast to al dente pasta. And the vinaigrette cuts through the heaviness of the alfredo sauce exactly as I had hoped; it almost makes the sauce seem light, which is pretty hard to do when it’s basically cream and butter. It’s also quite a pretty presentation, in my mind… I think this would be great as a big dish to serve to your guests at a party or holiday; double or triple this recipe, and serve the pasta in a large shallow serving bowl, topped with all the greens. Pretty, pretty, pretty.
Linguine Alfredo with Fresh Greens and Vinaigrette
original recipe from The Kitchenette
1/2 pound linguine or other dried pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup cream (heavy, table, or half and half)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon champagne mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
4 cups packed fresh baby spinach or mixed baby greens
salt and fresh cracked pepper
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add a generous tablespoon of salt to the water. Add the pasta, and cook according to package directions.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the cream and whisk to combine. Heat over medium for a few minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Season with a pinch of salt.
Whisk the mustard, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar in the bottom of a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Toss greens with vinaigrette, and set aside.
Place grated parm in the bottom of your serving bowl. Pour thickened cream/butter mix over cheese. Season with plenty of cracked pepper. Let sit until the pasta finishes cooking. Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water (which can be added to the sauce later if it is too thick to coat the pasta evenly). Drain pasta and add cooked pasta to serving bowl. Toss to coat pasta with sauce. Add reserved cooking water, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary until sauce coats pasta evenly.
Top pasta with dressed greens. Serve immediately.
Dawes / Love Is All I Am