This is a delicious variant on the first dish I learned how to make while growing up. I wish I had a name for this combination of pasta, meat and veggies, but I’ve never heard one used. The best description I can come up with would be “Italian Stir-Fry.” If you’re sitting at home thinking, “That’s totally ________!” Feel free to let me know.
The dish has three basic ingredient groups, and you can substitute anything in my recipe with an item that matches one of the following categories.
Any kind of short sturdy pasta will do. Long spaghetti type pastas don’t really work all that well. A plain cheese ravioli would be good, but if you’d like to use a stuffed ravioli I’d omit the meat category. I’ve definitely done this before and it’s a great option.
Chicken or Italian Sausage seem to be the two best options for this meal, but its your dinner. Go wild! If you want to go with seafood, I’d suggest scallops.
Sweet Onions, Mushrooms, Marinated Artichoke Hearts, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Red Peppers, Brocoli Rabe, Tomatoes, Capers, Eggplant…Pine nuts aren’t exactly a “veggie” but they go here too.
That’s pretty much my normal go to list.
Ok. So here’s the one part of the dish that shouldn’t be messed with because it becomes a different dish if you do.
There’s no actual sauce. The whole thing gets tossed in the olive oil and fresh garlic it’s been cooking in. After the dish is complete you can use any kind of dry Italian cheese for grating on top. I pretty much refuse to forgo the cheese. Last but not least, use plenty of basil and oregano. Whether or not these are fresh or dried is up to you. I’ll use fresh if I have them available, but dried really works just fine.
Prep your meat! In this case I used two boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I think chicken breast gets dried out and chewy way to easily on it’s own, so I pretty much refuse to use it without beating the hell out of it first. As you can see in the photo below, you don’t need a meat mallet. My favorite way to “beat the meat” is to take an empty beer bottle and wrap it in plastic wrap. That way you can just throw it away when you’re done and not have to worry about cleaning raw chicken out of every little crevice. When you’re done tenderizing the chicken, lightly coat each side with salt and give it a little rub. This will help break down the meat even more before cooking the chicken.
When you’ve finished prepping the chicken, cut it up into nice even chunks:
Now it’s time to get the pasta cooking. Gemelli is one of my favorite pasta shapes and that’s what I’m using in this recipe. For the amount of chicken I have, I’m using about 2 cups of pasta. Make sure to salt your water to flavor the pasta, and and add a little bit of oil to keep the water from boiling over.
Let’s get some veggies going! Today I decided to use about a cup and a half of mushrooms, half a large onion, a cup of marinated artichoke hearts and a half of cup of sun dried tomatoes. I sliced the mushrooms nice and evenly, sliced the onion into thin slivers, left the artichoke hearts alone and chopped the sun dried tomatoes. This is also the step where you’ll want to crush and chop a bunch of fresh garlic. I used 4 cloves in this recipe, but you can use more or less depending on how much you love garlic.
Lightly coat the bottom of your skillet with olive oil, heat to medium and toss in your veggies and garlic. If your veggies start browning before they have broken down to that soft and delightful place, turn your heat down. You don’t want to get a brown on the veggies until they’ve reached their maximum tastiness!!!
When the veggies appear to be good and cooking, lightly salt, and add the basil and oregano. Other Italian spices are totally cool here. I have this great “Italian Spice” grinder, and I’m pretty happy with the results.
At this point, your veggies and your pasta should be mostly cooked. If your pasta is not totally cooked, but your veggies are starting to brown, turn the heat down to low on your veggies and wait for the pasta to finish. Drain the pasta just shy of al dente, because you’re going to toss all that lovely pasta in with the veggies and meat.
Once your pasta has been drained and is chill-axing in a colander in the sink, throw the chicken in with the veggies and turn the heat back up to medium. The chicken pieces should be fairly thin and small and will cook quickly. When you don’t see any more pink on any pieces of chicken, it’s time to throw the pasta in. Keep turning the pasta in with the veggies and chicken until all excess moisture has cooked off. This is a pretty good time to take a taste and see if your balance of seasonings makes you happy.
Last but not least, grate some high quality Parmesan Reggiano or Pecorino Romano to garnish. (You will be able to tell the difference if you buy the cheap stuff)
Ideally you’ll have someone that you’re cooking for sitting on the couch and you can make this his or her job to complete before the meal is finished.