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Friday, March 4, 2011

Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken, for Sheila

My first post!  Sheila would like a recipe for Chicken, Broccoli and Ziti that's "not too heavy." 

Ahhhhh, that's the tricky part, "not too heavy."  About fifteen years ago, I was at a party and a friend of mine was going back to the buffet table for another helping of chicken/broccoli/ziti because it was so good.  I agreed with her that it was good and wondered aloud, "Why doesn't it taste like this when I make it at home?"  Her quick reply:  "Well, I think we just cringe to use that much oil and butter and cream at home."  AHA!  She. Was. Right. 

Here's my attempt at making pasta with chicken and broccoli, attempting to minimize the calories in the sauce while maximizing the flavor.

Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli
  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken tenderloins
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb of your favorite pasta
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, as much or as little as you like!
  • 1/4 cup shredded basil
Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat.  If you are using an electric skillet, heat to about 350 degrees.
Brown the chicken on both sides in the olive oil (about 2 mins. each side).  Don't move it around too much, you actually want to get it to stick to the pan a bit to get the little caramelized brown bits. 
As the chicken cooks, start cooking the pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta cooks, remove the chicken from the pan to a cutting board.

Add the butter to the pan, crush the garlic into it and saute it for about 30 seconds (you just want to soften it, not burn it!) then add the lemon juice.
The lemon juice will quickly deglaze the pan.  Scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan and then add the chicken broth and let it come to a boil.  Let it continue to boil until it reduces to about half (this is why it's important to use low-sodium chicken broth.  Regular chicken broth will become very salty when it's reduced).

While the broth boils, microwave the broccoli florets for 2 minutes.  This will soften them, yet preserve their color.  Also, slice the chicken into bite-sized chunks.
It's okay if it's not quite cooked through, you will be adding it back into the pan and it will continue to cook.

Once the broth has reduced, add the chicken and the broccoli.  Reduce the heat to a simmer.

Drain the pasta and quickly place in a pasta bowl (you want it drained but not dry, and certainly not sticky--  a little bit of the excess starchy water is a good thing in this case).  Pour the sauce with the chicken and broccoli over the pasta and toss together.  If you are going to add shredded Parmesan cheese, this would be the time.  (Not everyone in my family likes cheese--(horrors!), so we add the cheese to our plates individually.)  Ditto with the basil! 

This recipe easily serves my family of 5, plus leftovers.  Buon Appetito!

Sorry for the blurry pictures!  Still trying to figure out "aperture" and "shutter speed," things I didn't even know existed before I entered the blogdom.

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