Cheese. It is my favorite food group, tied only with bacon. Since I was a kid, if I ordered something that had cheese on it, I would ask for extra. It’s a habit I have yet to kick am perfectly okay owning.
My love for cheese dictates what I cook on a regular basis. And when I’m able to put something together where cheese happens to be the star of the show, rest assured I’m jumping all over it!
Today, it is parmigiano reggiano that elevates this Chicken Alfredo with Kale Salad recipe. And because it is in every bite of the meal, splurging on a high quality, flavorful and vibrant parmesan is key in making this very classic dish special.
While I know pasta can be heavy at times, the Kale Salad that accompanies this Chicken Alfredo fosters the perfect balance we all need when sitting down to a meal as decadent as this one. The salad offers a brightness all of its own, making it the perfect companion to this stick-to-your-ribs pasta.
To celebrate my love for cheese, I share this recipe with you today. It is one you can use for an intimate dinner with a loved one or for a house full of guests at your next party. Either way, it is a must-make for anyone enamored as much as I am with the greatest food group ever.
Chicken Alfredo with Chopped Kale Salad
(recipe serving size – 4-6 people)
For the salad:
8 cups kale, chopped into small pieces
1 cup grated parmigiana reggiano
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the kale, cheese, oil and lemon in a container with a lid. Cover and shake until the kale is completely coated. Season with salt and pepper and shake again. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or while you prepare the rest of the meal.
For the chicken:
2 lb chicken breast (cut into 5-6 cutlets)
2 tb olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp granulated garlic
Cooking spray or oil for the pan
Coat the chicken in the oil and spices and marinate for at least 1 hour. Heat a grill pan or a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Spray or brush the pan with oil. Cook the chicken all the way through (5-8 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the cutlets). Tent with aluminum foil to aid in the cooking process.
Remove the chicken from the grill pan once done and allow the chicken to rest for until it is cool enough to handle. Cut the chicken cross-wise into 1/2-inch slices and set the pieces aside while you make the sauce.
For the alfredo sauce:
7 cups half & half
2 cups grated parmigiano reggiano
4 oz butter plus 1 tb
1/3 cup all purpose flour
Herb bundle (10-15 sprigs fresh thyme and 3 sprigs rosemary tied together)
1 tb fresh parsley, chopped
7 cloves garlic, chopped plus 6 finely minced
1 tsp kosher salt plus additional to taste
1 tsp cracked black pepper plus additional to taste
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes plus additional to taste
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Pour the half & half into a small pot. Place the pot over medium heat. Add the herb bundle and garlic and bring the half & half to just shy of a boil.
In another pot, whisk the flour into the melted butter over medium heat until the flour is fully incorporated, creating a roux. Continue to whisk the roux over the heat for 2-3 minutes. Slowly pour the half & half into the roux while whisking. Add the salt, cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and nutmeg and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the béchamel has slightly thickened, whisking often to prevent the bottom from burning.
Once the sauce has thickened, remove the her bundle. Add the parmesan cheese. Whisk vibrantly until the sauce returns to its smooth texture. Add the additional tablespoon of butter, the minced garlic and the parsley along with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5-10 minutes over medium-low heat, whisking to make sure the bottom does not burn.
Add the chicken to the sauce and simmer over low heat while you prepare the pasta.
For the pasta:
1 box of your favorite pasta (I used mostaccioli rigate)
2 tb olive oil
1 tb kosher salt
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the olive, salt and pasta. Following the recipe times on the box, boil until al dente.
Reserve 2 cups of pasta water and drain the rest.
Bringing it all together:
Pasta water, if needed
Fresh parsley for garnish
Extra parmigiano reggiano
Crushed red pepper flakes
Combine the pasta with the chicken and alfredo sauce and simmer the pasta for another 1-2 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a little of the reserved pasta water.
For serving family style, place the salad and pasta in separate serving dishes and bring it to the dinner table. Garnish the pasta with the parsley and have the additional parmigiano reggiano and crushed red pepper flakes on hand for your guests.
For serving individually, place the pasta and the salad on a single plate. Sprinkle each helping of pasta with some parsley. Have the additional parmigiano reggiano on hand for your guests. And enjoy!