Pasta with Lemon Pepper Parmesan Cream Sauce

Holy wow you guys. I sort of… accidentally made this one day for lunch. (Yes, really, “accidentally.”) It turned out so awesome that I tweaked it a bit and adjusted the recipe to serve four people. This is a fabulous quick and easy dinner or lunch idea, and is definitely versatile!

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For a lighter dish, this would be good without any meat at all. However, to make it a little heartier, saute up your choice of protein to go into the pasta. I chose kielbasa, which everyone knows is my favorite, but any smoked sausage would do. You could also use chicken (2 large breasts cut into bite size pieces), or even ground turkey (about a pound). The main point is just that the meat is fully cooked before anything else goes into the pan.

In my case, since I used kielbasa, my meat was already cooked through. I just browned it in the pan with some olive oil for a few minutes, then added 1 diced sweet onion. (Sweet onions are pretty small, so using a whole one shouldn’t be overpowering.)

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Let those sweat on medium-high for about two minutes, then add in 3 cloves of minced garlic and let simmer for one more minute.

Then, keeping the heat fairly high, add in the juice and zest of a large lemon, 3/4 cup of half & half, and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Quickly stir this together so it combines and the cheese starts to melt, and then let it reduce for about two minutes.

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While it’s reducing, add in two teaspoons of fresh cracked pepper, and then salt and basil to taste. (I didn’t need as much salt since I used a cured meat – it’s to your taste!) Once the sauce has thickened, add 1 pint of halved cherry tomatoes. Stir these in and then remove the pan from the heat.

Add the sauce to cooked pasta of your choice, top with more shredded Parmesan, and serve! I used penne pasta for mine.

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I’m of the opinion that anything with a lemon-pepper flair is amazing, but I’m telling you, this pasta is shockingly good! And it’s totally fancy enough to entertain with. 🙂

Full Recipe:

Pasta with Lemon Pepper Parmesan Cream Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 package of kielbasa, cut into coins (or enough of your choice of meat to serve 4)
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup half & half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
Salt & Basil, to taste
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Process:

1) Brown kielbasa with olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Add sweet onion and saute for another two minutes. Finish off with garlic and let simmer for one final minute.

2) Keeping pan over medium-high heat, add juice and zest of the lemon, half & half, and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine and let reduce for about 2 minutes.

3) While sauce is reducing, add pepper, salt, and basil, and stir in.

4) Once sauce has thickened, stir in cherry tomatoes and remove from the heat.

5) Toss a cooked pasta of your choice with the sauce, plate, and top with Parmesan cheese before serving.

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Truly Home Made Pasta Alfredo

Okay, so I know that food manufacturers make it like SUPER easy to skip a bunch of steps when you’re cooking and buy everything pre-made and then just throw it together in various pans.

While the convenience is nice… you lose a lot of flavor potential and, quite frankly, the dish tastes flat and, well… canned. Hmm, maybe that’s why the “pasta alfredo” you make at home with lackluster jarred sauce and frozen meat doesn’t taste quite like the “Pasta Alfredo” you get from the authentic Italian restaurant down the road that promotes their “made from scratch” Alfredo sauce and “fresh, never frozen” meat.

I have tried to really make it clear through this blog that cooking from scratch and making restaurant quality dishes doesn’t have to be hard or expensive! If you shop smart and cook without waste it really becomes so worth it to make everything yourself.

Now, I’m not about to tell you to start making your own pasta – while that can be very rewarding, it’s a tricky process and sort of defeats the “it’s really easy and quick” mantra I continually put out. So, keep on buying boxed pasta on sale for $1 a box – it’s really cheap and still tastes fine!

That being said, after reading this post, you should never buy jarred or canned Alfredo sauce – EVER again!

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The kind of pasta and meat you use for this is really entirely up to you – I used smoked sausage for my meat and Cellentani for my pasta. The important part is getting the sauce down. A note though: if you’re used smoked sausage, it’s really seasoned enough on its own, so just brown it in oil and set it aside. If you’re using something like chicken or shrimp, however (which has a blander flavor profile) you’ll want to kick up the spice a bit while you’re cooking it – even if it’s just salt, pepper, and something like basil or cayenne.

So, once you’ve browned/cooked your meat in some olive oil and removed it from the pan, keep the pan over a medium-low heat and add 1/2 a diced onion to the remaining oil. Let the onions sweat for about 2 minutes, then add 2 cloves of minced garlic.

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Let this sweat for another minute more, then add 1 cup of cream (or milk, if you’re trying to keep things low-fat).

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It will bubble and steam as it de-glazes the pan and reduces down. After about 1-2 minutes, add 2 tablespoons of mascarpone cheese and 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, along with 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp basil, and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper. Stir until the cheese has melted and spices are combined.

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Stir in your reserved meat and then whatever pasta you cooked, and serve! That’s it. It’s that simple – and it will taste so much better than that lame jarred stuff!

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Full Recipe:

Home Made Pasta Alfredo

Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cream (or milk)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Process:

1) Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and allow to sweat for about two minutes, then add garlic and let sweat for an additional minute.

2) Pour in cream to de-glaze the pan and allow to reduce for 2 minutes or so, then stir in spices, Parmesan, and mascarpone until cheese is melted and everything is combined.

3) Stir in cooked pasta and browned meat of your choice and serve immediately.

Tuscan Pasta with Sausage in Lemon Blush Sauce

This one’s gonna be good – we’re traveling to Italy for this one! 🙂

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had the pleasure of going to Italy and exploring the various culinary tastes the country has to offer. Tuscany is probably my favorite region of Italy… Rome is great and all, especially for history buffs, but it’s housed in the central coastal territory of Lazio. Tuscany is just above Lazio, also on the coast, but contains gorgeous scenery and fabulous cities like Lucca, Pisa, and my favorite, Florence. (Known to the Italians as Firenze. Also, Tuscany in Italian is referred to as Toscana.)

If you’ll allow me to nerd out for just a moment, here’s a couple photos from Florence that may help to illustrate why I love it so much: (More photos at the bottom from Lucca and Pisa.)

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Both photos were taken along the famous Arno river. And if the beautiful scenery isn’t enough to convince you, just know that Florence is known for farming… especially cattle. Which means fabulous leather goods for a fraction of what you’d pay in the States, and: the best. steak. ever. No joke.

Once you get finished booking your flight to Italy, though, I’ll show you how to create a dish (albeit it not steak) that just oozes Toscana with every bite.

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Blush sauce is this fabulous blend between a cream sauce and a red tomato-based (pomodoro) sauce. I kicked up the pasta a little by adding smoked sausage, but this would also be great meat-less, as well!

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The prep photos I show are for my lowly serving for one person, but I’ve adjusted the recipe for this blog post to feed four to six people. So, when your pans look fuller than mine, don’t panic!

Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. I used Farfalle (bow-tie) pasta but you could do any bite-size pasta. Penne would also be great! A one pound box of pasta is typically enough for 4-6 servings.

While you’re waiting for your water to boil, do some prep work. Dice 1/4 of a large onion (or 1/2 of a small one), mince 3 cloves of garlic, take a cup of cherry tomatoes and cut each one in half lengthwise, and cut one package of smoked sausage (usually 14 oz) into 1/2 inch pieces. (I really like kielbasa, but any smoked sausage would do!)

Once you add your pasta to the boiling water, add your sausage to a large frying pan coated in olive oil over medium high heat. As long as you’re using smoked sausage, you only need to brown it. If you’re using a raw sausage (such as chorizo) then you should cook the links first, then cut them, and then combine them with the rest of the ingredients.

Once the sausage has browned (only a couple of minutes), add the diced onion and 1 cup of frozen peas. Toss this to combine, then reduce heat to low and cover.

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Let that simmer for 4-5 minutes, then add your minced garlic. Toss to combine, let cook for an additional minute, and then remove everything from the pan into your serving dish (temporarily).

Return the pan to your burner on low heat and add 1 & 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 4 ounces of cream cheese. (Half an 8oz block.)

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Stir this gently for a minute or two until the cream cheese has melted and is incorporated into the sauce. Add in about 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and melt this in as well, along with the juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and basil, then remove it from the heat and add in your halved cherry tomatoes. (To make it extra lemony, add in the zest from the lemon as well!)

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Once you’ve drained your pasta, add it to the serving dish on top of the sausage and pour the sauce on top. Stir it to combine everything, and serve topped with fresh grated Parmesan.

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Full Recipe: (Extra Italy photos are below the recipe.)

Tuscan Style Pasta in Blush Sauce

Yield: About 4 servings

Ingredients:

One box uncooked bite-size pasta (like Farfalle or Penne)
4 quarts water

1 tbsp olive oil
1 package smoked sausage, like kielbasa, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 large red onion, diced
1 cup frozen peas
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 & 1/2 cups tomato sauce
4 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
Juice of 1 lemon (zest optional)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp basil

Process:

1) Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, proceed with the remaining steps.

2) Coat a large frying pan in olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add sliced sausage and brown for 3-4 minutes.

3) Reduce heat on frying pan to low, then add peas and diced onion. Toss to combine. Cover and let simmer for 4-5 minutes.

4) Uncover sausage and add minced garlic. Cook for another minute, then remove everything to your serving dish.

5) Return pan to low heat and add tomato sauce and cream cheese. Stir gently until cream cheese is melted, and then add in 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

6) Once all of the cheese has melted, stir in lemon juice, salt, pepper, basil, and tomatoes. Remove from heat. Add sauce and drained pasta to serving dish. Stir to combine and serve immediately. Garnish with fresh grated Parmesan.

As promised, here’s a few more photos from around Tuscany…

This one is in Lucca, during the early afternoon when all the shops were closed for lunch.

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Three guesses where this one’s from! Yes, it really does “lean”! It was originally intended to be the bell tower for the cathedral, but obviously since it’s always been leaning, it never made it to that purpose!

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This is also in Pisa, looking from the tower back toward the entrance to the walled section of the city. This building is the baptistry, the first of the three iconic buildings of Pisa. (In between the tower and the baptistry is the cathedral.)

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This one is, of course, not in Tuscany, since I said earlier that Rome is located in Lazio, but I couldn’t resist adding this super romantic night time Colosseum photo!

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