April 20, 2005

Recipe file: Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli, and Sun-dried Tomatoes

For the second installment of Recipe File, I'm going to write about a dish that combines several of my favorite ingredients: chicken, pasta, broccoli, cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes. America's Test Kitchen's Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli, and Sun-dried Tomatoes is a great remedy for the countless similar dishes that drown the tasty components in a heavy, flavorless cream sauce. The sauce actually doesn't contain any cream at all, which makes it a bit lighter than similar dishes, and much more flavorful and complex.

I've made this dish only once so far, so I didn't tamper much with the basic recipe. The only substantial change I made was in the shape of the pasta. The recipe calls for penne, ziti, cavatappi, or campanelle -- none of which I had in the house. So I used mezzi rigatoni, which worked fine, though I think one of the recommended shapes might have held the sauce better.

Dr. Dregs and I found this dish to be quite delicious overall: it had loads of chicken flavor (in a good way), which was nicely complimented by the sharpness of the asiago and sun-dried tomatoes. The quick blanching of the broccoli meant it was perfectly cooked, and still tasted fresh -- not waterlogged or overdone at all. We will certainly make this recipe again, with a few changes:

  • The recipe calls for six cloves of garlic, which turned out to be a bit too much for us. Next time, I will cut the garlic back to four cloves. I think the onion is the more critical of the aromatics in this recipe, since it's really the primary flavor base for the sauce. I used a white onion, but a milder onion may be a better choice.
  • Right at the beginning, the recipe warns the cook to "be sure to use low-sodium chicken broth in this recipe; regular chicken broth will make the dish extremely salty." Even using low-sodium canned chicken broth, the dish was still a bit saltier than I would like. Next time, I plan to use homemade stock, which ought to reduce the level of saltiness while also intensifying the chicken flavor.
  • The recipe calls for Asiago cheese, but adds that Parmesan is an acceptable alternative if Asiago can't be had. The Asiago was perfect in the dish, but I don't always have it around. On the other hand, Parmigiano Reggiano can always be found in our refrigerator. So I plan to use it next time instead of the Asiago.
  • This dish is a fairly complex cooking project. It isn't exactly difficult, but there are lots of ingredients to chop, shred, or otherwise prep, it takes a long time, and it dirties a larger number of dished than I'd like. The results are unquestionably good enough to be worth the trouble, but this is decidedly not a quick weeknight dinner.
  • Finally, although Doc Dregs and I are meat-eaters, we don't always have meat in the house, or wish to deal with cooking it. So I may experiment with a vegetarian version of this dish. Leaving out the chicken meat is no big deal (I think mushrooms would be a nice meaty substitute), but it will take a pretty flavorful vegetable stock to stand up to the other strong flavors in the dish -- it will probably be essential to make some from scratch.

I'll try to update and report my results when I make this again. Enjoy!

Posted by at April 20, 2005 7:32 PM