I have been sick for about two weeks and tonight was the first time I felt like getting in the kitchen in awhile. I still don’t have a lot of energy so I wanted something that I could throw together quickly, using what was in my refrigerator and pantry. A fast pasta dish was the perfect go to meal.
Being married to an Italian, pasta is always in our pantry. It is The Artist’s favorite dish and anytime I use it in a meal, he is one happy camper. I had some beautiful small conchiglie (shells) that work well to hold small vegetables and sauce, so those were part of the plan. Then I rummaged through the refrigerator and came up with an alternate to the traditional mire poix; I substituted poblano peppers for the carrots. When combined with a bit of chipotle powder, there was a nice little kick to the final dish.
I have a bag of amazing Vidalia onions, (thank you Wendy :-)) so those are going in everything I make these days. Their sweetness makes up for the lack of carrots in the mire poix, creating a very similar balance. Everything is better with Vidalias! You could stop right here and have a beautiful vegetarian/vegan meal, which I often do, but today The Artist and I needed more protein to help keep our blood sugar level. There were a couple of boneless chicken breasts in the freezer, so I quickly thawed them and they were ready for a fast sauté.
Within 30 minutes I had a filling, healthy, low calorie meal for the two of us plus leftovers for lunch tomorrow. And it didn’t take a lot of energy or thought to put together. It may not be elegant, but it is delicious, full of fresh ingredients, and comfort food at its best. As with all of my recipes, feel free to substitute other vegetables, protein, or starch to suit your tastes and what you have on hand.
If you are short on time, suddenly discover that you are hosting a dinner party in an hour, or just need a quick meal because you and the kids are starving this is a terrific recipe to have on hand.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
In this dish, do not be afraid of what seems like a large amount of olive oil. The vegetables will absorb part of it as they cook and the remaining will become the sauce for the pasta. If you want a vegetarian or vegan option, just leave out the sauteed chicken, but add an extra tablespoon of oil to the vegetables, or as need to create the sauce.
Kitchen Skill: Getting the Perfect Sear on Meats
One of the signs of a professionally cooked piece of meat is the perfect searing of the exterior surfaces. In order to achieve it you must have a very hot pan (or grill) and once you set it down, you cannot touch it. This is the hardest part – we all want to move the meat in the pan, check it to see how it is cooking, etc. But if you leave it alone, the surface will more quickly reach the perfect golden brown. If you try to lift it and it is sticking to the pan, leave it a minute or two longer and try again. When it is ready it will release from the pan on its own.
- 8 oz dried pasta, such as orecchiette, fusilli, conchiglie (shells), penne, or ziti
- 5 tbsp organic olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 poblano chile, stem and seeds removed, chopped
- 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
- 1/4 tsp chipotle powder, optional
- 3 small ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 2 to 3 thick, boneless chicken breast halves
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Parmesan cheese, optional
- In a large pot of boiling, well-salted water, cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain without rinsing and transfer to a large bowl.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 3 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the onions, celery and chile. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add the oregano, chipotle and tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook another minute or two, tossing, just enough to lightly cook the tomatoes and finish the other vegetables.
- Add vegetables to the bowl with the pasta. Toss to evenly distribute and coat the pasta with the oil. Set aside while you cook the chicken.
- In the same skillet, add another 2 tbsp oil and heat over medium-high heat. Sprinkled both sides of the chicken pieces with onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. When shimmering, add the chicken. Leave them alone without moving until well browned on the first side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, flip to cook the second side, again not moving unless needed. Cook until an instant read thermometer reads 160°F, another 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken.
- Remove chicken from the skillet and set on a cutting board; let rest several minutes. Pour any pan juices from the skillet into the bowl with the pasta and vegetables. With a very sharp knife, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and toss with the pasta.
- Divide equally into serving bowls and sprinkle the top with a little Parmesan if desired. Serve immediately.