Saturday, October 4, 2014

Chicken Cucina - A quick and nutritious pasta dish

Short of time, cash, patience and ideas for dinner - then this is the dish for you.  The ingredients are simple and cheap; cooking time is as long as it takes to boil some pasta; it ticks all the boxes for nutritional content; adults and children alike love it AND it's delicious.

I've called it Chicken Cucina, but I'm sure the Italians must have thought of it first and have a traditional name for it - please let me know if it rings a bell.  

For four people you will need:
1 free range chicken breast cut into thin slices
1 tbsp olive oil
Pene pasta
1 cup sliced fresh mushroom
2 cups broccoli florettes (I made it with peas in the one above because I didn't have any broccoli)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 long red chilli, thinly sliced (optional)
1 handful of freshly chopped marjoram (or basil if you don't have it)
About 350 ml tomato passata
1/2 cup fresh cream (I think you could use plain yoghurt as a substitute)
Splash of dry white wine (optional)
Freshly ground salt and pepper
Handful of fresh chopped parsley for garnish
Grated parmesan

Method
1.  Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente then strain; steam the broccoli above the cooking pasta water until just cooked then refresh under cold water and set aside.
2.  Heat oil in large heavy based pan.
NOTE: This is important: if you use a small pan the chicken and mushrooms will become soggy in their juices and not take on those lovely stir-fried flavours, instead they will be more like a stew.
3.  Flash fry chicken until the strips take on some golden colour - don't overcook.
4.  Add mushrooms, chilli, garlic - keeping the pan hot, toss around
5.  Add the tomato passata (wine) and cream and turn heat down to gentle simmer.
6.  Add broccoli and season with salt and pepper to taste.
7.  Stir through chopped marjoram (or basil)
NOTE:  Marjoram is one of my favourite herbs for all kinds of Italian cooking; it has a lovely aromatic sweet nutmeg smell and flavour.  If you don't have it fresh then use basil and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.
DONE!  Now just toss the sauce through the cooked pene and top with a little fresh parsley and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.  As you can see, this dish is very adaptable - I just leave the chillis and mushrooms out if I have any little ones for dinner - not their favourite things.


Marjoram (Origanum marjorana), often confused with oregano (Origanum vulgare), shown in the photo above growing alongside a pot of bush basil (Ocimum minimum); all easy to grow in a warm climate. Marjoram is more often used fresh in cooking and oregano dried or part of a marinade.  I like to have them in pots close to the house and move them around when it gets too wet or too hot.

NOTE: Adding a handful of fresh herbs to any meal infinitely adds to it's nutritional value.  See previous post all about parsley.




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