First things first though, my brother-in-law made this for us a couple of weeks back, he’s a wonderful chef and I have completely and utterly stolen this dish from him. Sorry Paul!
What you need
2 chicken breasts
Penne pasta, enough for two
Parmesan (or any grana padano which is usually MUCH cheaper..)
Adjust portions for your own needs.
What you will use
1 pot – large enough to hold your pasta
1 frying pan – large enough to hold the chicken AND pasta combined, preferably a straight sided pan. A large cooking pot will suffice.
1 sharp knife, the sharper the better.
1 stirring implement… er… a wooden spoon or spatula.
How to make it
Firstly, get your pasta on to boil. You can just follow the instructions on the side of the pack, remembering to only add the salt once the water is boiling, and if you add a touch of oil along with the pasta it’ll help stop the pasta tubes from sticking to each other.
Now, slice up the chicken breasts into even sized pieces. I prefer smaller mouth-sized strips just a little bigger than the penne pasta, I think it helps give an even sauce coverage.
Aside: The topic of sauce coverage is of some debate in my house. I prefer to have a fine coating of sauce, lightly coating the pasta, and any other ingredients, so as to subtly slide over the palate. My wife takes the “sauce and some pasta” approach, casting the tubes of pasta adrift in a sea of passata at a moments notice (I shouldn’t be too nasty though as she makes dinner far more often than I do). Feel free to tweak this recipe to your own sauce preferences, but if you are of the latter persuasion don’t bother inviting me round!
Now, where was I? Ohh yes, you’ve got the pasta onto boil, so let’s cook the chicken.
In your frying pan, add a dash of oil, bring up to heat and add the chicken. Ideally you want a nice colour on both sides, but I’m sure you can all manage to fry some chicken. You can, of course, grill the chicken if you prefer. As long as it is cooked and there are no pink bits.
Depending on your timing skills, you may find that the chicken is ready before the pasta. Not to worry, just take it off the heat as we’ll be warming everything through before serving.
Check your pasta to see if it is ready. Some people like to throw bits of pasta at the wall to see if it sticks (although not sure what that tells them, other than that they should really clean their walls more often), but I generally prefer to actually bite into a bit to see if it’s to my liking. Al dente or whatever you prefer (although I’d suggest that ‘soggy mush’ means you’ve overcooked the pasta).
This, again, is entirely to taste. I’d suggest that you don’t want much more than a couple of teaspoons, just enough to give a nice soft covering. You should NOT have a sauce, the pesto should just cling to and pasta.
Now, swirl in a dash or three of single cream (I dunno, maybe a tablespoon?) again don’t add too much, we don’t want a runny sauce! You are just adding enough so that it softens the colour of the pesto without washing it all off the pasta.
Heat gently for a minute or so, then serve topped with parmesan shavings, and possibly a nice Chablis. Enjoy!
What else can you add?
The main flavour of the dish is chicken and basil, the tomato in the pesto is very subtle, so from that simple base you could add other ingredients to give it a little extra ‘zing’. Maybe some finely chopped onion or a little chilli to give it a bit more kick, or some toasted almonds or pine nuts? Or for a more tomato-ey flavour how about some sun-blushed tomatoes?