Welcome back to the Tavern. Last week, Josh gave us a great recipe for Chili. This week, it’s Italian and I’m hungry. Actually, after reading Josh’s recipe for Chicken Breasts and Pasta, I’m starving. So let’s get to it.
The Italian Job
Pasta accompanied by Chicken breast with Spinach and Tomato topped with melted cheese
Chicken breast 1 per person
2 cloves of garlic
1 bag of spinach
1 jar of family favorite pasta sauce/store bought (adding a little chopped basil is a nice way to add a little flare to it)
Mozzarella or Fontina cheese (pre-grated in the bag is nice and easy)
1 box of pasta (whichever kind your family prefers)
You’ll need a pot with water and a pinch of salt to cook the pasta. Also, grab a pan to sear the chicken and cook spinach.
Mince the garlic and put in a medium/high heat pan with a drizzle of olive oil. Let your garlic sweat. You should start to smell the garlic aroma. This is the time when you will add the spinach and sauté with the garlic. Once your spinach has wilted you can remove the spinach and garlic from the pan put it in a bowl and set it off to the side. Take the pan you just used and put it back on the stove on high heat.
Most people have a fear of a drying out their chicken breast. A cool trick to prevent this from happening is searing them. Searing is simply cooking your food over a high heat to brown it quickly. This will lock in the juices and prevent your chicken from drying out.
What I recommend doing is getting your chicken breast washed and patted dry. Heat your oven to 375 degrees prior to starting chicken. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
On a plate dump a half a cup of flour. The flour is going to help sear in all the juices of your chicken and keep it moist. Take your chicken breast and roll them in the flour. All you really need is a light white coloring on the breasts. Once you have covered the chicken in the flour add another drizzle of oil into the pan, if needed, which is on your stove on high heat. Take the chicken breast and add them to the pan. Salt and pepper your chicken breast.
All you are doing is creating a brown crust. A little brown crust is what we want.
Once you have that color and it looks like the sides are sealed, flip the breast and add a little more salt and pepper. This technique should only take about 1.5 minutes per side.
Depending on pan size and level of comfort the chef (that’s you) can work with 2-3 chicken breasts at a time. Once your chicken is seared, transfer to the baking sheet with foil and continue working your way through the rest of your chicken.
Once you have seared your chicken and put it on the baking sheet you wrapped in foil, the oven should be heated and ready to go. Put the baking sheet in the oven. Depending on the size of the chicken breasts, cooking time will vary. I would suggest the average size chicken breast you get at your grocery store should take about 15 minutes at 375 degrees. If you are working with cuts or sizes of meats you are unfamiliar with, Google it: How long does it take to cook *desired cut or portion*.
While your chicken is cooking, you can work on the pasta. Follow the directions on the box.
While you’re cooking the pasta, you can start to slice your tomato. You will be putting it in the oven, so slice it thin. This will make sure it gets nice and warm.
If you are using a timer, pull the chicken a minute or two early. After you take your chicken out, turn on your broiler. The chicken should be plump and firm when you touch it with your finger.
Take your spinach that you set aside earlier and put a nice layer of spinach on top of each chicken breast. Add the tomato slices top of your spinach and top with a healthy portion of cheese (healthy or heaping, you decide)
Put the chicken breasts, covered with your spinach, tomato, and cheese, back in oven. Give them a few minutes in the broiler to let the cheese melt and everything to warm up. When the cheese starts to brown, pull it out of the broiler. Don’t leave it in too long!
We didn’t forget about your pasta either. It should be finished by now. Take it off the stove and drain it. A trick I like to use with my sauce and pasta, take your jar of sauce and add it to the empty pot you just boiled the pasta in. The warm pot will heat your sauce and leave you with one less pot to wash later. Then add the pasta on top. You can plate the pasta plain and spoon the sauce on if you prefer. You can still add the sauce to the warm pot. Just plate the pasta and spoon the sauce from the warm pot.
All that is left is to add a chicken breast to your plate of pasta and to make sure you have some fresh Italian bread to go with it.