A Delicious and Hearty Pasta Dinner
Chicken, mushrooms and pasta: they are a classic combination of flavors that just speak of comfort food and soothing home cooking. But often those flavors are drowned out with a heavy dose of cream or cheese to add richness, which doesn’t have to be the case. Fresh herbs and quality dried mushrooms can create a wonderful flavor that is lighter yet also completely satisfying.
The recipe I’ve shared here is perfect to make on a weeknight when you don’t have a lot of time to spend on slow-cooking meat, or chopping and prepping lots of ingredients. It combines dried and fresh mushrooms with chicken breast, fresh herbs, bacon and lemon to create wonderfully layered flavors in about as much time as it takes to boil water and cook a pot of pasta. What more could you ask for? I hope you give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.
Tips before you begin:
To save time, you can use already prepared chicken breast tenders from the supermarket instead of whole chicken breasts. However, buying bone-in chicken breasts will save some money as you can use the bones to make chicken stock later on!
Fresh herbs are really key to giving this dish flavor, so don’t try to substitute dried sage and parsley. Sage is easy to grow in your garden and in fact will come back year after year once established outside.
Dried porcini mushrooms are wonderful for adding a rich, earthy flavor to dishes and can go a long way in dressing up humble white button mushrooms. Of course, if you are lucky enough to have access to fresh porcini mushrooms in season, by all means use those instead!
For your pasta, choose a flat ribbon shape like tagliatelle or something similar that will hold the mushrooms and sauce well. I had some lovely artisanal, hand-shaped fussili which I used for this meal.
Don’t cook with bacon? That’s okay – you can simply use butter or olive oil to saute the chicken and other ingredients instead, but you’ll lose some of the smoky flavor that the bacon will add.
Chicken, Mushroom and Sage Pasta
Prep and cooking time: About 45 minutes
1/4 cup slab or thick-cut bacon, diced
2 split chicken breasts
1 shallot, diced finely
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon fresh sage, rolled and sliced thinly
Juice of one lemon
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 pound dried pasta
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, microwave one cup of water for 2-3 minutes until boiling. Drop dried mushrooms into the boiling water and set aside, allowing to soften and steep while preparing the other ingredients.
2. Set up your mise en place by chopping all herbs and vegetables, juicing the lemon, and preparing the chicken. Remove the skin and rib bones from the chicken breasts, if necessary, and then slice into “tenders” – about the size of your thumb. Your pasta water should be at or close to a good boil before you begin cooking the rest of the dish.
3. Using a cheesecloth-lined funnel or strainer, pour off (but keep!) the mushroom soaking liquid. Slice the porcini mushrooms and set aside with your other ingredients.
4. In a saute pan, cook the bacon over gentle heat until the fat is rendered down and the bacon cooked thru. Don’t burn it! Remove cooked bacon from the pan and set aside.
5. Add the chicken tenders to the bacon fat and season with salt and pepper. Saute the chicken until it is opaque on all sides – about 4 to 5 minutes.
6. Check the timing on your pasta noodles, according to package directions. If they take 8-10 minutes to cook now is a good time to get them started.
7. Add the mushrooms, sage, shallot and garlic to the chicken and continue cooking until the tenders are cooked through, about 4 to 5 more minutes.
8. Add enough of the mushroom soaking liquid and the lemon juice to the pan to make a sauce – about 1/4 cup of the mushroom liquid, but use your judgement (and taste). Bring up to a simmer and cook until it begins to reduce down, about another 4 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
9. Drain pasta, then return to pasta pot. Add in the chicken and mushroom sauce and the reserved crisped bacon, and toss together to completely coat the noodles. Taste one more time to check and adjust seasoning as necessary.
10. Serve pasta topped with fresh chopped parsley.