CHICKEN AND VEGETABLE PASTA IN A RICH PESTO SAUCE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We recently had lunch at our good friends home here on Camano Island. Both Gene and Jane are excellent cooks so of course the lunch was wonderful. Gene made his favorite pasta dish and I just could not get enough. (I can’t remember now whether I went back for thirds, but I definitely went back for seconds!) Anyway, Gene and Jane invented this dish based on a sandwich. (I love it when people think outside the box.) So after lunch (or at least I think I waited till after lunch) I asked Gene, because he had made the pasta that day, if he would share his recipe. Later that afternoon I received the recipe via email. Now of course I had to do some messing with the recipe to fit my own cooking style. (I like to make my own sauces where Gene and Jane use a jarred sauce.) But the “bones” of the recipe are strictly Gene and Jane’s.

The pasta was so delicious, that I decided to serve it the very next Sunday for one of our JazzVox pre-concert meals. It was an instant success. Not only does this dish have a wonderful creamy tooth feel, the flavor is amazing. It is also just lovely to look at. All the colors of the veggies, and of course the trio of colors in the rotini, make for a fabulous presentation.

So if you want to find a way to get more veggies into your family without the able assistance of the jolly green giant, (an option I strongly considered when my own children were very young), I suggest you at least try this pasta first. (Having your children voluntarily eat their veggies is ever so much easier than hiring the giant to force feed veggies to your darling offspring. And then of course there’s always the worry that if the “giant” bumps his head on your kitchen ceiling, a lawsuit could ensue.)

Thanks again Gene and Jane for the lovely lunch and this wonderful recipe.

  • 4 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into thin rounds
  • 1 large head broccoli, cut into bite sized chucks
  • ½ head cauliflower, cut into bite sized chucks
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into bite sized chucks
  • 8 oz. thinly sliced mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 4 T. butter
  • ¼ c. flour
  • 2 c. half & half
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 T. no-salt Mrs. Dash seasoning
  • 1-3 T. pesto (recipe below)
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese, (or more to taste) plus Parmesan for passing at the table
  • 8 oz. tri-color rotini pasta*, cooked al dente and drained (reserve about a cup of pasta water before draining)

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a very large sauté pan. Add the carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onion and a small amount of salt and pepper. Cook the veggies until they are crisp tender. Add the red pepper, mushrooms, and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Remove the veggies to a bowl and set aside. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and sauté the chicken just until done. Remove the chicken to the bowl with the veggies.

In the same pan, melt the butter and cook until it is light brown. Whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the half & half, heavy cream, about a half teaspoon of salt, some pepper, and the Mrs. Dash seasoning. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and add pesto to taste. Add the cooked veggies and chicken. Remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese and cooked pasta. (If the sauce does not seem creamy enough, add some of the reserved pasta water.) Adjust seasoning. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan cheese. Or, the pasta can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until needed. If you make this dish ahead, make certain all parts of the dish are cool before mixing them together and pouring them into a lightly buttered baking pan. This includes draining the pasta when it is al dente, and rinsing it under cold water to stop the cooking process. Then a couple hours before you want to serve the pasta, take it out of the refrigerator. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or only until it is hot. Do not over-bake.

*Remember: don’t cook your pasta until it is called for in the recipe. Do not cook it ahead and add to the other ingredients after it’s been sitting around for awhile. Not good form.

PESTO

  • 4 oz. (2 c. mashed down) fresh basil
  • ¾ c. (4-6 oz.) finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Whirl until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

 

Please let me know if you like this recipe. Thanks