Back in October, I did a stage at Bon Appetit for a day. Yes, the Bon Appetit. It was an amazing experience and I feel so lucky to have had it; getting to see exactly what went down in the BA test kitchen, whose recipes I pour over each month when my issue arrives, was sort of a dream come true. Even more delightful was this February, when I saw several of the recipes I helped prep in print in the magazine!
Since a stage is sort of like a day-long interview, the test kitchen cooks, in addition to testing my skills and focus, asked me a lot of questions throughout the day to get to know me better. Mid-afternoon, one question that was less professional and a bit more personal came up – “What is your favorite food?”
True to my thought process when questioned by any authority figure, I quickly debated telling them the response that would make me look more interesting, more cultured, more appealing as a cook, versus just the plain old truth. But since I’m a terrible liar, I opted not to spin tales of foie gras and venison, and went with the latter; “It’s a little boring, but I’m such a pasta lover.” Apparently someone else in the test kitchen was a pasta junkie too, and so it went over well.
And really, it’s not that surprising. Who doesn’t love thick, hearty strands of semolina goodness swirled through rich sauces, be them tart and savory, or luscious and creamy? A well-done pasta is something few people can escape the allure of.
Enter this week, where I was doing some hardcore procrastinating on my new favorite interweb obsession, Pinterest (that is, me and the rest of the female population of the world), when I came across this recipe for Pasta Puttanesca. Or rather, this picture:
I love the Pioneer Woman. The first time I ever saw her her was around Thanksgiving 2010, when Ree Drummond was on TV competing in the Thanksgiving Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Bobby and his team were driving up to the Drummond Ranch, and I freaked out a little bit because my boyfriend’s last name is also Drummond. In my naiveté, I frantically texted him asking if he might be related to whoever Flay was throwing down against, and though it wasn’t the case (that we know of), I still watched the whole episode, endeared by Ree’s personality and casual yet expert approach to cooking. And her food blog/website basically sets the bar for food bloggers.
Anyway, I saw this Pasta Puttanesca, and knew it had to be good. I’d never made puttanesca before, but a quick skim of the recipe proved I had most of the ingredients already, and it could be dinner in a cinch. I made a few modifications to the inspiration recipe, adding some sautéed chicken breast, using both black and kalamata olives, and a bit less cheese and oil to up the flavor while cutting the fat.
And it really did come together quickly – forty minutes, from start to finish, and I took my time. This pasta dish is so insanely delicious – the grape tomatoes provide the traditional acidic base of red sauce that we all crave, but the anchovies and olives add a layer of silky, savory Mediterranean flavor that makes this sauce downright addicting. I used Trader Joe’s High Fiber Spaghetti and added some herb-sautéed chicken breast for extra fiber, a punch of protein and staying power. Tossing the whole thing with some Parmesan cheese and fresh basil at the end ties it all together – it is, in essence, the perfect pasta.
But don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself!
Pasta Puttanesca with Herbed Chicken – Serves 4
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- ½ whole red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 ½ cups of grape tomatoes, halved
- ¾ cups of low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 4 whole anchovy filets, minced
- 1/4 cup of black olives (the canned variety), finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of kalamata olives, finely chopped
- 1 ounce of grated parmesan cheese
- 8 ounces of high-fiber or whole wheat Spaghetti
- 1/4 cup chopped basil for garnish
- 2 4-ounce chicken breasts
- Pinch of oregano or Herbs De Provence
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta to al dente while preparing the sauce.
2. Combine the minced garlic, anchovies, and olives in a bowl. Set aside.
3. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced red onions and cook until they start to caramelize, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the grape tomatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more, until tomatoes start to soften.
4. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic/anchovy/olive mixture. Stir to combine the sauce, reduce heat to low, and continue to gently simmer until the sauce has reduced to your liking. Keep in mind the pasta will absorb some of the liquid, so wetter is better. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Meanwhile, season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of Herbs de Provence or Oregano. Heat a skillet over medium heat and grease lightly with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil. Cook chicken breasts for 2 – 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside. Once chicken has cooled slightly, roughly chop into bite-sized pieces.
6. Drain pasta and add to the sauce pan, along with the diced chicken. Add the grated Parmesan and toss to coat pasta in the sauce. Garnish with chopped basil sprinkled over the top. Serve right out of the skillet.
Nutrition Facts (per HUGE serving; makes 4 servings) – 344 calories, 11 grams of fat (1.8g saturated fat), 7.2 grams of fiber, 23.5 grams of protein.