A generation ago, Filipinos’ acquaintance with pasta was mostly limited to spaghetti with the inevitable ground beef and sliced hotdogs and macaroni salad with shredded chicken breast meat, pineapple tidbits, and mayonnaise. If one pined for good Italian pasta, there were very few restaurants where they could be had. And they were expensive too. Today, with the availability of a wide variety of dried pasta in supermarkets, pasta has become very popular in the Philippines. The drawback is that with the onslaught of fast food chains, instead of introducing real alternatives to the usual spaghetti and macaroni salad, the attempt to turn pasta into economical dishes resulted in transforming them into mediocre things–soggy pasta swimming in thin tomato sauce with microscopic meat. There are ways of serving inexpensive pasta dishes without sacrificing quality. And, in my experience, this can best be done at home.
If you’re thinking of serving a pasta dish for the noche buena meal, consider lasagne. A box of lasagne noodles may be more expensive than the more common spaghetti but the contents of a single box, when cooked, can serve a dozen people. The baked dish looks dressier too before and after cutting. The basic sauce for this lasagne dish was made with shredded chicken (leftovers), diced ham, and sliced mushrooms. The alternate sauce was made with butter, sour cream, and chicken stock.
Melt half of the butter in a saucepan. Saute the onions until soft. Add the shredded chicken meat. Cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the ham, pimiento, and mushrooms and continue cooking for another minute. Add the tomato paste and pour in 1-1/2 cups of chicken stock. Stir to blend well. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley. Cover and simmer for about five minutes. Turn off the heat and leave, covered, to infuse the flavors. Note that this mixture will be quite dry. Prepare the sour cream sauce. Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan. Add the flour all at once. Cook, stirring, for about two minutes. Pour in the chicken stock slowly, stirring continuously to blend well. Add the sour cream and cook just until heated. Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Assemble the lasagne. Moisten the bottom of a 9×9 inch baking dish with about three tablespoonfuls of tomato sauce.
- Lay two pieces of cut lasagne noodles side by side.
- Top each noodle with the chicken-ham-mushroom mixture.
- Lay two more cut noodles over them and top again with the chicken-ham-mushroom mixture.
- Pour about half of the sour cream mixture over them.
- Cover the sour cream mixture with half of the sliced quick-melt cheese.