I love to cook and I love to read cookbooks, cooking magazines, surf cooking websites and blogs, talk about recipes, you name it. If it has to do with food, I’m all over it. One of several, I have been subscribing to Everyday with Rachel Ray. As soon as I receive the new issue, I flip through every page anxiously looking at the photos of the dishes and scanning the recipes. If it looks like something I’d like to try, I dog-ear the page. In one of my first issues, I discovered a recipe that is one of my absolute favorite pasta dishes ever. Ever, I say!
Now Rachel made it with carrots, zucchini and onions, but I throw every veggie I have in my fridge into this pasta dish. I especially love to add asparagus. Oh, baby. Chop up the garlic, onion and whatever veggies you choose and have them ready on the cutting board. You’ll also need a bottle of dry white wine. I used a West Virginia wine – Daniel Vineyards Cayuga White. Always cook with a wine you would drink. And go ahead and pour a glass for yourself to enjoy while you’re making this culinary masterpiece. It makes cooking even more fun.
You start the dish by toasting the spaghetti noodles. You know, like you do with Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat. I use the Dreamfields low carb spaghetti but you could use regular or whole wheat pasta. If you haven’t tried it, the whole wheat pasta is really delicious. I like my pasta just barely al dente, so I enjoy the bite of whole wheat (and the Dreamfields). We have tried Ronzoni Healthy Harvest and the Barilla Plus and they both taste great. (Kid approved!) If you like softer noodles, you will want to cook these types longer than you would regular pasta. Anyway, back to the cooking. While you are toasting the noodles, put the chicken stock in a pan over medium-low heat. You want the stock to be warm when you add it to the spaghetti later so it won’t bring your cooking temperature down.
When the noodles are golden brown, add the veggies, salt, pepper and fresh thyme (you can use dried thyme, but you’ll only need about a teaspoon – it’s stronger than fresh) and stir everything around with your tongs so the veggies can start to soften. Next, you’ll add the wine and cook until it has been completely absorbed. Then all you do is add three ladlefuls of warm stock at a time, stirring with your tongs and letting the stock absorb before adding the next round. It’s similar to making a risotto. By combining the stock gradually, the liquids become creamy. Continue to do this until the noodles are cooked to your liking. I usually end up using all the stock except about one ladleful – but I like mine al dente. If you use all the stock and it’s not as tender as you like, it won’t hurt to add a bit of warm water and continue cooking if you’re out of stock or broth.
The last step is to add the cream and the parmesan cheese, turn off the heat and stir. Since I am on low-carb, I can thankfully consume heavy cream, guilt-free. In fact, skim milk is not allowed – way too many carbs. The luxury of cream is one of a very few perks on this diet plan. I have made this with skim milk instead of cream before, though, and it still turned out great. I don’t think you’ll be missing anything if you make that substitution in the interest of lowering the calorie count. It is, however, vitally important to add the chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley when it is served and it is a matter of life and death that you add the fresh lemon zest. You are totally cheating yourself if you do not add the lemon zest. It makes this dish awesome.
You can taste every layer of flavor in the finished product: the wine, the stock, the parmesan. The resulting sauce is creamy and coats the noodles. You can make this a completely vegetarian dish by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock like I did. Also, I thought it would be a great candidate for some shredded rotisserie chicken purchased at the grocery store.
If you only ever make one Rachel recipe – this is the one I would recommend. But then again, I haven’t received my next issue yet!