Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quick caprese pasta night

Ok, I am a huuuuge fan of anything that combines basil, mozzarella, and tomato. You toss a little EVOO and S&P and I'm thrilled. You add balsamic and.... well, let's not go there.

I needed a quick and easy meal for last night based on what we had in the house because neither of us had the time or energy to hit the grocery store at dinner time. I found: leftover chicken thighs from the other night's ragu, fresh basil and sage from the same, somewhat stale french bread, fresh mozz and parm, lovely tomatoes on the vine, and angel hair pasta. Here's what happened:

(Chicken not pictured..... oops)
This is such a simple recipe that is still filled with tons of flavor- and relatively light and healthy.

Pasta caprese with chicken and breadcrumbs:

(This recipe was perfect for 2- adjust accordingly)
Stale french bread- I used about 1/4 loaf for a yield of 1 1/2 c of breadcrumbs
Handful of angel hair pasta
2 medium on-the-vine tomatoes
 Approx 5-6 large basil leaves(to taste) , roughly chopped
Approx 4 small sage leaves, chopped fine
1 large or 2 medium cloves of garlic, chopped
About 1/2 c EVOO
Fresh mozz to taste, chopped (I used about 2 oz.)
Fresh parm to taste, grated

Chicken of any sort (I had 4 small boneless, skinless thighs)
Marinade of choice
     - I used good seasons italian dressing made with
red wine vinegar

I started by getting  the chicken going- I put the thighs in a baggie and put about 2 tbsp of the italian dressing in with them. If you have never had it before, Good Seasons is the stuff that comes in packets in the dressing aisle. I make it with red wine vinegar and don't add water (I just sub extra red wine vinegar instead.) I love love love this dressing when I don't have time to make my own. It is also great for pasta salads...

While they marinated, I started making the breadcrumbs. I have read quite a few articles lately extolling the virtues of  the breadcrumb as a textural tool in pasta dishes, so I figured, "what the heck."

I ripped the leftover bread into chunks and fed them to my food processor. I processed them until the whole thing was nothing but a pile of crumbs:

I spread them out and tossed them in the oven at 350 deg F and...promptly forgot about them. I think they were probably in there for about 10-15 minutes before I caught a whiff of toasted bread and took them out. Fortunately, they were the perfect shade of golden brown and had a great crunch. At this point, you could toss them with a little EVOO and season them at will with whatever gets you all excited. I opted to leave  them as-is. I wanted the dish to be simple and the only herbs to be those in the pasta.

Back to the chicken- I only had time to let them marinade for about 30 mins. I took them back out and tossed them into my awesome non-stick searing pan with a little EVOO. I had them at a relatively high heat and seared them on both sides. I then tossed them in to the oven at 350 to finish them off. It took about 12 minutes- by the time I was done with the pasta (below), they were perfectly cooked and ready to go.

Moving on to said pasta- I brought a pot of generously salted water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, I chopped the tomatoes, basil, sage, mozz, and garlic. All but the garlic went into a bowl and hung out for a few minutes. Once the water boiled and the pasta was in, I put the garlic in a small saute pan and poured the olive oil on top with the burned on medium heat. I cooked the garlic in the olive oil until it was just slightly fried/toasted. Don't let it get too brown! Otherwise, you will have bitter garlic.

Nobody likes a bitter garlic...

Now here is where the magic happens- take the pan with the garlic and hot oil and pour it right on top of the tomato mixture in the bowl. You should hear a very satisfying sizzling noise as you do this.

By this time, your pasta should be done- using tongs, take it straight from the pot and toss it in the bowl with the tomato/oil mixture. You can also toss in a little of the pasta water if it is too tight. Grate some fresh parm on top and mix it all together. At this point, you will also want to add S&P to taste.

Plating: Dish up half of the pasta in each bowl (with plenty of tomatoes, herbs, and cheese). Scatter a generous handful of breadcrumbs on top. Slice chicken into strips and place on top of the pasta.
And Voila! A super easy Mediterranean-style dish that is yummy, filling, and comforting...

1 comment:

  1. awesome. now that's italian. just a few good ingredients, not overcooked, in great harmony.

    i need to make this spon.