Ned Walsh is confident about the quality of his marinara.
“I’ll put our marinara against anybody, anywhere. Our marinara is fabulous,” says the owner of 901 Pasta in Yakima.
In addition to the freshly made marinara, the Italian restaurant also has a great putenesca sauce, Walsh says. But when it came time to select a recipe to be featured on the February episode of KYVE’s “Valley Fresh Fare,” Walsh didn’t want to make any of his traditional Italian dishes, as good as he knows they are.
He decided to make Cajun Chicken Linguini.
“I wanted to kind of demonstrate that we do something else, that we stretch the envelope a little bit,” Walsh says. “I wanted to demonstrate that we’re a little more broad-based than traditional Italian food.”
901 Pasta has been a staple of Yakima’s Italian cuisine since it opened in 1987. Walsh bought the restaurant at 910 Summitview Ave. in 1995. In addition to running the restaurant, Walsh also teaches the culinary arts program at Yakima Valley Technical Skills Center.
His teaching schedule keeps him busy and away from the restaurant, which Walsh says is just fine, because he has a steady crew that he trusts to run the show without him, led by his son, Matt.
“It’s nice after all these years, that we all think the same,” Walsh says. “We all just have the same style of cooking. We know what kind of food we think would work at 901. When you have a team together that long, everything kind of melds together.”
Along with the Cajun Chicken Linguini, Walsh prepares a Butternut Squash Soup for “Valley Fresh Fare.” The restaurant tries to emphasis seasonally available produce, and Walsh says the winter squash brings a clean flavor to the table in a simple dish. It also demonstrates a technique that Walsh enjoys using: After cutting open the squash, the seeds and trimmings are placed into a pot of water, over which the vegetable is steamed. Then the liquid is strained and becomes the base for the soup.
“The flavors really come out,” Walsh says. “It’s just clean and crisp.”
As a culinary instructor, Walsh has several tips for cooks who want to give the soup and linguini a try: Prepare everything before you start, cook in stages, and don’t overcook things.
“When you sauté a dish, it all happens real quick. Everything has to be ready ahead of time,” Walsh says. “The other thing I guess would be just don’t overcook it. People have a tendency to get a little too much heat on things.”
He recommends prepping all the ingredients before you begin cooking, and don’t just toss all the veggies in a pan at once. Some ingredients — such as celery, bell peppers and chicken in the linguini — require more cooking time than others. Adding ingredients in stages ensures that vegetables stay crisp and don’t become soft.
“It should have a little bit of a bite, a little bit of a crunch,” Walsh says.
901 Pasta is located in the Scarborough Fair complex on Summitview Ave., 910 Summitview, No. 7A. Take-and-bake pastas, sauce and pasta salads are also available. For information call 509-457-4949 or go to 901pasta.com.
Butternut Squash Soup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced (about ¼ cup)
3 pounds butternut squash (about 1 large squash), cut in half lengthwise, each half cut in half widthwise; seeds and fibers scraped out and reserved
6 cups water
Salt, to taste
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the seeds and fibers from the squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns saffron color, about 4 minutes.
Add the water and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Place the squash cut side down in a steamer basket, and lower the basket into the pot. Cover and steam until the squash is completely tender, about 30 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and use tongs to transfer the squash to a rimmed baking sheet. When cool enough to handle, use a large spoon to scrape the flesh from the skin. Reserve the squash flesh in a bowl and discard the skin.
Strain the steaming liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a second bowl; discard the solids in the strainer. You should have 2 ½ to 3 cups of liquid. Rinse and dry the pot.
Working in batches and filling the blender jar only halfway for each batch, puree the squash, adding enough reserved steaming liquid to obtain a smooth consistency. Transfer the puree to the clean pot and stir in the remaining steaming liquid, cream and brown sugar. Warm the soup over medium-low heat until hot, about 3 minutes, Stir in the nutmeg, season with salt to taste, and serve.
Allow leftover soup to cool completely before covering. Soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two days. Warm over low heat until hot; do not boil.
Cajun Chicken Linguini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
8 pieces of celery (cut on a diagonal, ¼-inch wide by 1½ inches long — about ¼ cup)
4 ounces of chicken breast, cut into about 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons red onion, cut into ¼-inch strips
2 tablespoons green onion, sliced, green and white parts)
1/4 cup green bell pepper strips, 3/8-inch slice by about 2½ inches
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 Roma tomato, 1/4-inch sliced, seeded
1 tablespoon cajun blend spice mix
1/3 cup heavy cream
6 ounces cooked linguini
In a 7-inch sauté pan, cook the celery and chicken in the butter and oil for about 1 minute.
Add the onions, peppers, garlic, and parsley and continue to sauté until vegetables are tender and chicken is just done. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the spice blend and toss to coat.
Add the cream and the tomatoes. Swirl and simmer for about 2 minutes. The sauce should thicken and the tomatoes will remain firm.
Add the cooked pasta to the pan. Toss to coat.
If the dish is a bit dry, add more cream to the desired consistency, allowing this added cream to heat up and take on the flavors of the sauce.
• Savannah Tranchell can be reached at 509-577-7752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.