Every family has its own unique set of traditions. These traditions are the glue that binds one generation to another. Those revolving around food are often the ones that seem to stand out the most. It’s no wonder. Food nourishes not only our bodies but our souls as well. The family table is where relationships are forged, bonds are strengthened and memories are made. One of the goals I had when I started this blog was to celebrate my Italian heritage by featuring the marvelously homey and delicious dishes I grew up eating and the loving hands that prepared them. I wanted to show how the relationship between food and family plays an integral part in shaping who we are by sharing some of my own memories, musings and experiences. As I said then, “I have many interests in my life, but I’ve realized that food is the fabric that holds families together. The memories of preparing a meal together and then sitting down to enjoy it with my own family are my most treasured. Although I am merely a humble home cook, I hope that, through this blog, I can inspire some of you, as I have been inspired, to make some memories of your own.”
The very first of my own recipes that I posted on SGCC was based on my grandmother’s Sunday meat sauce. That was almost three years ago. Back then, I knew nothing about how to write a proper recipe, and even less about how to take a decent photograph. But I did know how to tell a story, and I often peppered my posts with them. As time passed, I was seduced by simplicity and beaten down by time. In my zeal to crank out frequent posts while keeping up with my other writing gigs, the stories and my cherished family recipes became fewer and far between. I’ve also become so inspired by the plethora of excellent food blogs on the web and and the talented and creative bloggers behind them. Every day I find so many new recipes from all different cultures, and I want to try them all! There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve loved stretching my culinary wings and trying new things. That’s how we grow, enriching ourselves and hopefully, others. It just wasn’t what my original vision for SGCC was.
So, I’ve reached a compromise with myself. While still carrying on with SGCC the way I have been, I am also going to try to set aside one day each week to get back to my culinary roots. Sunday is going to be La Tavola della Famiglia or The Family Table day. Why Sunday? Because in my family, Sunday was always the day when we all gathered together at my grandparents’ house for a long, leisurely food fest – no matter how busy anyone was. And, since no Sunday was ever really Sunday without a huge pot of ragu simmering on my grandmother’s stove, brimming with various kinds of meat, I’ve decided to kick off my La Tavola della Famiglia series with this Fettuccine al Sugo di Pollo e Funghi – Fettuccine with Chicken and Mushroom Sauce.
Fettuccine al Sugo di Pollo e Funghi is a riff on my family’s traditional Sunday meat sauce. Instead of being filled with meatballs and various cuts of beef and pork, chicken and earthy, meaty mushrooms are the stars of the show. Chicken was a big favorite of my dad’s, so both my nonna and my mother used to make this dish often. The sugo only needs to be simmered for an hour or so, or until the chicken is cooked through. Because of the shorter cooking time, it tends to be a lighter and brighter sauce, with an almost sweeter quality to it. And, since you don’t have to slave over a hot stove all day to prepare it, you’ll have lots more time for other fun, family activities on a Sunday afternoon.
Here’s how you make it:
Mmmm! Can you smell that onion and garlic sizzling? I could just dab some of that stuff behind my ears instead of perfume!
One thing that I do differently from the original recipe is to remove the cooked chicken from the bones and add it back to the sauce. It’s a lot easier to eat that way, plus, you get a bite of chicken in every forkful. Another thing I like to do is use a blend of different kinds of mushrooms. I think it gives a nice variety of textures to the dish. Here, I added a mixture of portobello, porcini and shiitake mushrooms, but any combination works. When it comes to mushrooms, the more the merrier! Back in the day, regular old button mushrooms were the only ones readily available, so that is what my mom and grandma used. I don’t think my nonna ever even heard of shiitakes, much less cooked with them.
So, here you have it. Fettuccine al Sugo di Pollo e Funghi, dalla tavola della mia famiglia alla vostra – from my family’s table to yours.
Fettuccine al Sugo di Pollo e Funghi (Pasta with Chicken and Mushroom Sauce)
2 pounds chicken pieces (I use thighs)
Salt and pepper for chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic finely minced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 pound assorted mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used a combination of porcini, portobello and shiitake)
1 1/2 cups white wine (If you don’t want to use wine, you can use chicken or vegetable stock.)
2 28-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound fettuccine or any long pasta, fresh or dried
Grated Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese for sprinkling
Flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped for garnish
Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, carrots and celery and sauté until onions are translucent and slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to sauté until mushrooms begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes.
Pour in the wine and bring to a boil. When boiling, reduce heat back to medium and simmer until wine has reduced by half. Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and add the chicken pieces. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
While the sauce is simmering, prepare the fettuccine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Remove chicken from the sauce and pull the meat from the bones. Add the pulled chicken back into the sauce and adjust the seasonings.
Serve over pasta and top with grated cheese and parsley.