Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chicken Pasta Primavera

Needless to say, I have great respect for the high level techniques of master chefs. Nevertheless, the difference between an “ok” dish and a really good one is often a matter of one or two simple changes all of us can do, and I believe one of the most fertile and fascinating areas of cooking is the study of simple tweeks and methods that can make the difference. It is this idea that formed the foundation of this week’s recipe, Chicken Pasta Primavera.

The concept is simple enough: pasta and vegetables topped with cooked chicken. In this version, the pasta is cooked the usual way, but in chicken broth rather than water, adding extra depth of flavor. I also decided to avoid the easy choice of boneless breast for the chicken, and noodles or a long pasta. I opted instead for drumsticks and shell pasta. There’s nothing wrong with boneless breast, noodles, or long pasta, of course, but something about putting together another chicken-breast-on-noodles dish seemed visually boring to me. My thinking was that you judge how any dish looks before you ever get to judge how it smells or tastes. Needless to say, feel free to use whatever chicken parts and pasta you like.

Plus, this recipe also has you doing that really cool thing where you roast a red pepper directly on the stove burner. (If you’ve never done it, fear not: I took pictures.)

This recipe makes four servings. We’ll start by making the herb mix for the marinade and pasta.

To made the herb mixture, combine and finely chop 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, ½ tablespoon of fresh rosemary, ½ tablespoon of fresh thyme, ½ tablespoon of fresh sage, and ½ tablespoon of fresh mint leaves. (If you make extra, it tastes great in scrambled eggs too.)

Next, we’ll make the marinade and marinate the chicken.

In a large sealable plastic bag, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the herb mix to form a marinade. Add the 8 chicken drumsticks and set in the refrigerator for 3 hours, turning occasionally.

After the chicken has finished marinating, we’ll continue with the remaining steps.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook 1 pound of pasta as per the instructions on the box, but using the 2 – 3 quarts of fat-free chicken broth instead of water. Continue with the rest of the recipe while the pasta is cooking.
Roast a red pepper on the stove burner. To do this, you literally place the pepper directly on the burner. Give it as much flame as you can without having the flame touch the pepper. As each side blackens, use tongs to turn the pepper till all sides are blackened. Set the pepper aside until it is cool enough to handle, then use your fingers to remove the blackened outside skin. What’s left will be a delicious roasted pepper than can be diced for addition to the finished pasta.

Place pepper directly on burner.
Turn so all sides blacken.
Once blackened, set aside to cool.
Dice for use in pasta.

Add a little olive oil to a large heated skillet, and brown the drumsticks. (Just brown them, don’t cook them to completion.) After the drumsticks have browned, place them on a baking sheet and bake till done, about 45 minutes.

Dice one medium onion and put it in the skillet you used to brown the chicken, adding a little olive oil if necessary, and cook until caramelized. Add 4 chopped garlic cloves, and  a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook for about a minute more. Add the roasted pepper, 4 cups of chopped fresh spinach, and the remaining poultry seasoning herbs. Season with salt. When the spinach has wilted down, add about 1/3 cup of the starchy pasta cooking liquid to the pan and cook for a minute to reduce it.

Drain the pasta well and add it to the skillet. Toss the mixture to allow it to absorb the remaining liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.

After plating the pasta into four servings, top each plate with two of the drumsticks and drizzle with a little olive oil before serving.

And there it is: Chicken Pasta Primavera!

If you’d like a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this recipe, let me know and you’ll have it in short order!

See you next week with another recipe. Till then stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. It has been many dishes ago since I've not changed a recipe--a little or a lot! Sometimes for the better and sometimes not. Your chicken primavera looks and sounds delicious. I've done the peppers on the stovetop but now do them in the oven since I usually do six at a time. They keep well in olive oil in the refrigerator.

    Thanks for another great recipe.


  2. Love your changes and isn't it fun to do peppers that way!!!!

  3. Thanks, Bonnie and Martha! Altering recipes, either for reducing fat, personalizing the flavor, or both, is one of the great joys and challenges. And I love the idea of doing several peppers at a time and keeping them in oil, Bonnie. Although, as Martha said, that controlled burn of doing it on the stove top can be very cathartic. lol

  4. Hi, Ben! This looks delicious. I might have to try it soon! ;)
    I have an electric stovetop, so I've never been able to try roasting peppers like that. I've seen on TV that I can broil them in the oven, but I've yet to try it. I like the fact that you've used chicken drumsticks for a change too -- great idea!

  5. Much appreciated, Gloria! Although now you have me wondering what would happen if you tried this on an electric cooktop, the oven works well, especially if you are roasting several peppers. Here is a link to very good method and description I found on another blog: And I am glad you like the drumsticks! They may not be the meatiest part of the chicken, but I decided as a childhood opinion that having a built-in handle makes them the most fun to eat. (And turkey drumsticks are even better! lol)