Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pasta with Chicken, Tomatoes, Capers and Fontina

You know those days you say, to your dog, yourself, or no one in particular:  "Hey, I've got pasta, chicken, canned tomatoes, and some other stuff.  What would be good?"

Maybe you don't have conversations in your head about food, but I sure do.  I am always thinking about the next meal while I'm eating or even cooking the current one.  Food obsessed, that'd be me.

We'll call it "advance planning" and leave it at that.  Therapy is too expensive.

I don't often have boneless skinless chicken breasts, but Mister bought a big bag at Costco and they are awfully handy to have around.  Hence last week's Sesame Chicken, and tonight's pasta dish.  I always have various canned tomato products, pasta, and all the usual things like onion, garlic, white wine.

Today I happened to have some other goodies.  My grocery store has, in their cheese department, a small basket of odds and ends from various cheeses.  I am in heaven.  I get to try all sorts of things, or just buy a bit of something I love.  Today I uncovered Dubliner cheddar, cream Havarti, and fontina.  I was in the mood for fresh parsley, figuring I'd use it in several other things, and I had a bottle of capers in the fridge.  Wheeee!

This recipe made a LOT of food!  When don't I cook big, though?  This fed all 8 of us, plus lunch for the man to take to work tomorrow, plus a few servings for some of the kids for lunch at home.  The others can eat p-b-j.

Note:  Some recipes say to rinse your capers before using.  I don't.  I happen to LOVE the briny, salty taste they have and don't want to waste it on my drain.  Decide for yourself.

Pasta with Chicken, Tomatoes, Capers and Fontina

1 1/2 pounds penne, rigatoni, or other medium pasta shape
salt and pepper
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 or 2 more tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 - 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained (save the juice for soup or something else)
3 tablespoons capers, undrained
1/2 cup or so of the pasta cooking water
1/4 cup fresh, flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup fontina cheese, diced

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until no longer pink, about 8 minutes.  If a lot of liquid has accumulated, pour some of it off.  Remove the chicken to the serving dish.  Add a bit more oil to the pan and reduce the heat to medium.  Add the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring, until they soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine and stir, scraping the nice bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add in the tomatoes and capers, plus the reserved chicken, and cook on low for a few minutes. 

Meanwhile, have the pasta cooking in a large pot.  Right before you drain it, ladle out a couple of scoops of the water and add it to the skillet with the chicken.  You'll use about 1 cup of the water.  Drain the pasta and add it into the skillet with the sauce, tossing to combine.  Stir in most of the parsley.  This is not a "soupy" sauce.  Taste for seasoning.

Pour the pasta into a large serving dish and sprinkle with the diced fontina cheese.  Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve!

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