My friend Cassia has a blog full of lovely, lovely recipes. A while back she posted a recipe for this creamy pasta dish with lemon and basil, and I started hankering to make it the moment I saw her pictures. So on a lovely Sunday afternoon while Heidi and Baby James were staying with us, I whipped it up.
My first reaction: it was okay. Fine. Not bad, not awesome. I wanted to love it but was a little underwhelmed, so I decided not to blog about it because of my commitment to myself (and to you!) to only share recipes I truly love and would make again.
Then a couple days passed. Tuesday night my husband and I immersed ourselves in baking chocolate chip cookies and lemon cream bars, so I decided that it was time to eat the leftovers from Sunday so that we could focus our culinary efforts on the baking side of things. I wasn’t too excited about the leftovers, but I can’t stand to waste perfectly good food, so I pulled the pasta out and reheated a bowl for my husband and a bowl for myself.
And we dug in.
Oh my. It was like a dish transformed! “Wow, this is really good,” I said to my husband between mouthfuls. “Yeah,” he agreed. “You should blog about it.” “Yeah,” I said, engulfed in the wonderment of each bite.
I don’t know what happened to this dish as it sat in the refrigerator for a day and a night, but it was something magical. It got . . . creamier. Tastier. Really friggin’ delicious. So: know that on day #1 it’s a perfectly acceptable pasta dish. But also know that on day #2 and day #3 it becomes a marvellous concoction. Conclusion: if you are cooking for yourself and need something that will stay good or improve in the fridge over time, this is it!
Musical interlude: This is it! Ooooooh, I’ve finally foooooouuund someone, someone to share my life, I’ve finally foooooouuuuund someone . . .
Who the heck sings that song and why is it playing in my head with such clarity?
3 chicken breasts
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper
3 TBS olive oil
1 lb cellentani pasta (or any other small ridged pasta)
1 white onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
28 oz can diced tomatoes, partly drained
Juice of 1 lemon
12 leaves basil, 10 minced and 2 chiffonade
1 T dried parsley
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 oz goat cheese
Mission #1: let’s get that pasta started. Boil some salted water, and dump it in!
When it’s al dente, drain it and set it aside for later.
While the pasta is cooking, cut the chicken breasts lengthwise into strips. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and season the strips liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Then dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off the excess.
Heat 2 TBS of olive oil in a pan over high heat. When very hot, add the chicken strips.
Lower the heat to medium-high and don’t touch them for about 3 minutes. When browned on one side, turn them over and continue to brown until cooked through.
Look at that lovely, golden crust!
Remove the chicken to a plate and cut the strips into bite-sized pieces.
Gather the remaning ingredients to your bosom.
Yes, that picture is terribly blurry. But I have a very small and convenient scape-goat–one with poofy cheeks and a little fuzzy head. You can blame my photographic failure on the distractions provided by Baby James in the arms of my husband.
Oh, that Baby James. I miss him so much!
And no, I can’t manage to call him just “James.” He’s Baby James and that’s just that.
While the pasta is cooking and the chicken is frying, apply yourself by dicing the onions and slicing the garlic. Multitasking makes everything go faster.
Add another 1 TBS of olive oil to the pan and cook the onion and garlic until over medium-high heat until soft, about 5 minutes.
Mince up the basil while the onions fry:
And squeeze the lemon too.
By now the onions should be exactly where we want them, so add the partly-drained can of tomatoes, the minced basil, the lemon juice, and the parsley.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Things are smellin’ oh-so-fine ’round these parts.
Add the cream and chicken pieces, and stir to coat. Then add the goat cheese and stir the whole creamy mess over low heat until melted.
You’ll notice I didn’t cut my chicken into bite-sized pieces. But I darn well will next time! That Baby James. My culinary focus was totally shot.
Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce, and serve!
Garnish with the basil chiffonade.
And just remember: this dish improves greatly after a night in the fridge!
Click here for printer-friendly version: Chicken Cellentani with Goat Cheese and Lemon