If anyone happens to be curious, I used my expertly shredded chicken in last night’s dinner: Chicken-3PO. Yes, I realize this is incredibly nerdy. I blame my husband and son.
Everyone enjoyed dinner – even my picky son. Score! I believe his words were, “Mom, this is the best thing you’ve ever made!” He quickly added, “except desserts.” That’s my kid.
Disclaimer: I am not a food blogger, but I do enjoy cooking and baking (and eating). I may share some favorites sporadically. I doubt they will come with perfect photos, but they will come with too many words because food tells stories and I love to write and cannot help myself.
Chicken-3PO [3P for Pasta, Pesto, Parmesan and O for Onion]
Or call it Chicken Pesto Pasta if you don’t want to sound like a total nerd.
I usually pre-cook and shred my chicken ahead of time (it keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days). That way, dinner takes only slightly longer than the pasta boils.
While I wait for-freaking-ever for the large pot of water to come to a boil, I smash the garlic. I use at least 3 large cloves. You can slice it or use a garlic press, but I prefer whacking it violently with my kitchen mallet. Especially if I’ve had a particularly trying day. Slice the onion and red pepper. I like nice thinly sliced strips, but they can be diced or chunky – whatever you prefer. In fact, you don’t have to use them at all. This dish can be simplified all the way down to chicken, pasta, pesto, and cheese. Or you can customize to your preferences, adding whatever vegetables you like. Since my kids love this meal, I slip in any veggies I know they’ll eat. Mushrooms are great in this, but my son picks them out. It’s gross to watch.
Don’t forget to toss in your fettucine when the water finally boils.
Pour a little olive oil in a big skillet. Dump in onion and red pepper and cook over medium heat. Because garlic cooks fast, don’t add it until the onion and pepper have had a few minutes to themselves. Toss in garlic and spinach. I love watching spinach wilt. I’m pretty sure I’m weird, but for some reason, it’s very satisfying to witness. Maybe it’s because I love cooked spinach, but raw is vile.
Add the shredded chicken, pesto, and chicken broth to the veggies. I use basil pesto. I’ve never had any other kind. If you have, enlighten me! I’d love to hear about it. My mom taught me how she makes basil pesto when I was about 11 years old. Yum. Okay, back to dinner… I start with about a cup of broth and ½ cup of pesto. Honestly, if I didn’t pay attention to our fat-intake, I could double the pesto. Hell, I could eat pesto by the spoonful straight out of its container. My dad was 100% born-in-Italy Italian; he immigrated to the US at 25 after he graduated from medical school in northern Italy. I inherited many things from my dad, including a taste for all things Italian. Well, most things.
Once you have the chicken-pesto mix to your liking, dump it over the drained pasta (in the pasta pot – it’ll never fit the other way around). Mix it up. If it seems dry, you can add a little more chicken broth or a little pasta water, but I’ve not had to do so. And you’ve probably dumped your pasta water by now. Stir in about a half cup of cheese and bring more to the table. Italians like lots of good cheese. On almost everything. Even half-Italians like me.
Ooh – I also love oregano. I add some to the pot and sprinkle extra on my bowl of goodness.
Here’s a less wordy version of the recipe.
Non-Nerds: Chicken Pesto Pasta
15 – 20 minutes to cook and shred chicken; 15 more for the rest.
Serves 6 (or 4 if you’re super hungry or 8 if you have a big salad first).
12 oz fettuccine
3-5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 onion, thinly sliced (I always use Vidalia)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 bag (6 oz) baby spinach
2 c shredded cooked chicken breast (I buy 1-2 lbs) **
1 – 1 ½ c reduced-sodium chicken broth
½ – ¾ c basil pesto (from a jar or homemade)
Lots of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Parmesan or Romano)
Oregano, if desired
Prepare fettuccine according to package directions; drain and return to pot.
While pasta cooks, drizzle a little olive oil in a large skillet and add garlic. Heat for about 30 seconds. Add onion and red bell pepper; cook over medium heat until almost as soft or crisp as you wish. Add spinach and cook until wilted.
Add shredded chicken, 1 cup of chicken broth and ½ cup of pesto to skillet with onions/peppers. Stir over low heat for a minute or two; turn off heat.
Add chicken/pesto mixture to pasta (in the pasta pot – you’ll never fit the pasta into the skillet). Stir. If it seems dry, add a little more chicken broth (I’ve never needed to.) Taste and add more pesto if desired. Toss in about ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (I don’t measure…); stir again.
Serve with additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled on top. Enjoy!
** To make the shredded chicken, heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet and add chicken. Season with salt and pepper. When one side has browned, flip the chicken pieces over and season the other side with salt and pepper as well. Pour in about ½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth. Cover and simmer for about 7 minutes (depending on thickness of chicken pieces). Remove chicken and shred – with a stand or hand mixer.
Please let me know in the comments if you try this – what you think of it – and what you added or removed. I’m always interested in variations and interpretations. And if you don’t cook but I still entertained you, thank you, you’re very kind.