Monday, 15 June 2015

Penne with Chicken, Prosciutto, Asparagus and Goat Cheese

Time to use up some chicken tenders again! I was in the grocery store a couple of days ago and bought 8 thin slices of prosciutto, with no real idea of what I was going to use them for, but knowing they wouldn't go to waste. The prosciutto was perfect to use with the chicken; add in some asparagus and a bit of goat cheese and you have a lovely light pasta dish.

For the sauce I used the roughly quarter cup of white wine that was left in the bottle, and the open chicken stock that was in the fridge.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. When it is boiling, add the penne; prepare the sauce while it is cooking.

In the pan that you will be making the sauce, dry roast some pinenuts for a garnish.

Use a medium low heat, stirring them often, as they burn very easily.

Remove the pinenuts and set aside until needed.

Prepare the sauce ingredients:

Mince 2 cloves of garlic
Dice the 8 thin slices of prosciutto
Chop 1 tablespoon of fresh basil
Cut asparagus into 1" lengths, about 1 cup
Cut the 8 chicken tenders into 1" cubes

Heat the pan and add a drizzle of olive oil.

Cook the chicken, seasoning with salt and pepper, until it is cooked about 3/4 of the way through.

Remove and set aside until needed.

Add the chopped prosciutto to the pan, and cook for a few minuted until it starts to crisp up slightly.

At this point add the minced garlic, and cook for a minute. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the white wine; I had about 1/4 cup.

Cook until it is almost all reduced away.

Add chicken stock to the pan. The amount can be adjusted to suit your preference.

I used about 1 cup.

Bring to a boil.

Add the chicken back to the pan, and allow it to simmer in the sauce until fully cooked.

Add more stock if you feel you need it. You can also add some of the pasta cooking water; the
starch in it helps to slightly thicken the sauce.

When the pasta is almost cooked to your liking, add the asparagus to the pot and allow it to cook briefly, before draining it all together.

Return the cooked pasta and asparagus to the pot.

Add a handful of grated Parmesan and the chopped fresh basil to the sauce. Stir it in and allow it to melt.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Add the sauce to the pasta and asparagus, mix well to combine.

Serve, garnished with the toasted pinenuts and crumbled soft goat cheese. I also used a slightly stale baguette and some garlic basil butter to make some toasted bread to serve alongside the pasta.

  • A light sauce like this is perfect for the hot weather we are having right now; you can add whipping cream or Basic Tomato Sauce (or a bit of both) if that is your preference, or to give you a slightly heartier sauce in colder weather.
  • This sauce is flexible; add as much or as little chicken stock and/or pasta cooking water as you like to give you the consistency you like. There is no right or wrong.
  • Remember that the prosciutto, Parmesan and chicken stock can all be salty, so keep that in mind when seasoning in the beginning. You can always add more salt if you need it at the end.
  • No prosciutto? It can be omitted, or it can be replaced with bacon, pancetta or ham.
  • I had 8 chicken tenders; 1 chicken breast would be the equivalent. Leftover cooked chicken can also be used.
  • Seared scallops or prawns would be a nice substitution for chicken. Chick peas could be added if you are omitting the meat.
  • If you like a spicier sauce, add chili flakes. Rosemary or Italian parsley would also be good choices for this sauce.
  • The white wine can be omitted; use extra chicken stock or pasta cooking water. I used the wine because I had some.
  • As far as cheeses go, the goat cheese adds a tanginess to the sauce, and as it melts into the sauce it adds a creamy consistency. Other cheeses that would work for either tanginess or creaminess include feta, blue cheese, bocconcini, cream cheese, Asiago or fontina.
  • Cherry tomatoes can be added to the sauce. For a light sauce like this I like to cut them in half and marinade them with salt, pepper, the chopped fresh basil and a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Add them into the pasta at the same time as you add the sauce.
  • If you have grilled vegetables, sundried tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers or fresh spinach these would add a lot to the sauce. If I am adding fresh spinach to pasta, I like to finely shred it and place it on top of the hot pasta right before serving. It starts to wilt and becomes almost like a warm spinach salad along with the pasta. It can also be mixed in with the sauce; the heat from the pasta and sauce will cook the spinach immediately.

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