Monday, August 23, 2010

Chicken Penne Pasta with Pesto Cream

Something that's not common knowledge about Restaurant's and Bistro's is that in the afternoon prior to opening for service, the kitchen staff prepares a large meal (Family Meal) for themselves and wait staff. Sometimes, the meal will initial the evening menu so that everyone becomes familiar with the dish and its ingredients. By doing this, your wait staff can provide a wider range of knowledge to the customer resulting in the customer not having to take a "stab in the dark" with a unfamiliar dish. Well, enough of that. Let me bring you to the reason for that opening. I often prepared "Chicken Penne Pasta with Pesto Cream" for family meal quite often because everyone always enjoyed it and asked for it. It was one of those dishes that was simple to prepare but packed with great flavor and satisfying to eat.

Some years later I rediscovered this simple dish when we had some last minute Friday night plans with friends that was dropped on me by my wife and with little to prepare other than some Chicken, Penne pasta, Pesto, and some heavy cream that was left from making some homemade ice cream. So, in a matter of 45 minutes I was able to prepare this long forgotten family meal and serve up a nice refreshing dinner with very little stress.

I have made this meal a dozen or so time for Friends, and I have been asked for the recipe probably as many times. So, to my friend Lindsey, here you go after, what has it been? 5 years since you 1st asked me for this? Anyway, better late than never.

Chicken Penne Pasta w/ Pesto Cream:


1 (16 ounce) package penne pasta

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup pesto

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

The Pasta:

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente then drain and set aside *do not rinse pasta this will remove some of the remaining starch that will help thicken your cream*

The Chicken:

Salt and pepper chicken prior to grilling. If time is not an issue I recommend salt and peppering the day before. Grill your chicken making sure to do neat crosshatch grill marks on both sides. this will make your chicken stand out in the dish rather than blending in with the pasta and be lost visually. Remove chicken from grill. I tend to try and under cook the chicken so that when you add it to the pasta and sauce you finish cooking it, rather than overcooking, which will make the chicken dry and fibrous and not very pallet pleasing. Let chicken rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Once chicken has rested, slice in a diagonal direction making the slices about 1/8th inch thick. it is important to make your cuts across the grin of the meat. reason for this is the meat will break down in your mouth easier and prevent the chewy factor that chicken can sometimes have, even if not overcooked.

Pesto Cream:

Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic . Reduce heat and stir in pesto, cream, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper (to taste, be mindful you have salted and peppered your chicken and also your pasta water. You can always add more in the end) . Reduce the sauce to the point that the sauce coats your spoon.

Bringing it all together:

Add your chicken and once again reduce the sauce since the moisture in your chicken will loosen up the sauce. Once the sauce coats your spoon again add your pasta and gently fold to incorporate the chicken and pasta into the pesto cream evenly. When your Pesto cream coats your pasta remove from heat.


Ya know, I really hate dictating to people how to present there creations from the kitchen, but I will give some suggestions. Since this meal was always meant as a family meal and its roots are Italian, I would suggest placing it in a large bowl and garnishing with Parmesan and a few large basil leafs.

I will leave it up to you what you want to serve this with. I typically serve toasted Baguettes with garlic and a fresh Romaine hart salad.


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