The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star. -- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin --

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fast-to-Fix Pasta Dinner

Hi all…just popping in to share another recipe.  This one is something my hubby & I made up out of things we had on hand years ago.  We’ve enjoyed it many times since (although the recipe varies a bit, depending on what’s in the fridge).  The amounts YOU use will depend on your personal taste, and how many people you’re cooking for.  Just experiment with it to come up with your own favorite version! 

And…let me know if you come up with something really good!

Red, yellow & orange bell peppers - chopped & divided
    (Neither of us really like green bell peppers, but we love all the others.  You can pick your own favorite here.  We just use whatever we have - usually a mix of all three.  NOTE:  I always buy these when they’re on sale, then quarter & seed them - you can even go ahead and chop them if you like.  Then I put them in a sealed freezer bag in my freezer until I’m ready to use them.  They freeze beautifully!  It makes it really simple and easy to pull them out and use them on short notice later, and you don’t have to worry about them going bad before you can use them.)
Sweet onion - chopped & divided
    (We like 1015’s, but again just use whatever YOU like)
Garlic - chopped & divided
    (We’re both garlic fiends so we can use a whole head of garlic just for the 2 of us, but you may not want quite that much.  Just be sure you have enough to cook with the chicken, and with the vegetables.  Also, I always use fresh garlic, but feel free to use chopped garlic in a jar if that’s what you have or prefer.)
Diced chicken breast
    (When we’re just cooking for the 2 of us, one large chicken breast is plenty.  I usually keep a diced one in the freezer ready to go for such occasions.)
Diced zucchini
    (When our garden is producing, I often use a combination of yellow squash, white squash & zucchini - any or all work fine.  If you like another vegetable better than squash, throw that in, I’m sure it will be great. I’ve tried fresh asparagus and green beans - separately of course -  a few times, and both are delish!)
Diced tomatoes
    (I generally use my home-canned diced tomatoes, as long as I have some, but you can use store-bought whole or diced tomatoes as well.  If tomatoes are in season, I often use fresh ones.  If you want a completely different flavor you can even use sundried tomatoes that have been rehydrated and chopped - if you do that, be sure to reserve the broth you rehydrated them in to help loosen up the dish right before serving. It’s got loads of flavor!  When I use those, I usually add a few chopped Kalamata olives with them.)
Fresh herbs
    (I love to add fresh basil and oregano from my herb garden when it’s in season.  You can use any type of herb mixture you like - dill can be good if you don’t use too much, and I’ve even used mint.  If you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, dried ones work fine.  Just add them earlier in the cooking process - with the canned tomatoes.  Fresh ones will need to be added at the end to keep their color and flavor.)
Chopped green onions or chives
Regular olive oil
Extra Virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
Your favorite pasta
    (We like to use miniature whole grain penne or linguini, but any kind of pasta will do!  Be sure to reserve the cooking water after you’ve drained the pasta.)

Okay, now that all the slicing & dicing is done…it’s time to get cooking.

If you want things to come together about the same time, be sure to start your pasta water before anything else.  Getting it to boil is probably the most time-consuming part of the entire process.

Next, you’ll want to pre-cook your chicken.  Pour a little regular olive oil (not too much, just a Tablespoon or two - depending on how much chicken you’re cooking) into a hot pan, then add a little of your chopped peppers and sweet onion.  Reduce heat and cook until it starts to sweat.  Add a little of your chopped garlic and cook until everything is softened well.  (At this stage you only need a little of the peppers, onions & garlic - you’ll use more later.)

Add the diced chicken and cook until it is lightly browned and any juices run clear.  Remove cooked chicken from the pan and set aside.  DO NOT CLEAN OR RINSE YOUR PAN…you’ll want to keep all the flavors in it!  J

By now your water should be hot so you can start your pasta cooking.  (For some great pasta cooking tips, check out this link.)

Return your pan to the heat, and add a little extra virgin olive oil this time (it has more flavor than the other - but will burn more quickly, so keep an eye on it!).  Add the rest of your peppers and sweet onion.  Once again, bring it to a sweat over medium heat and add the remainder of your garlic.  Cook for about a minute and add your chopped zucchini (or whatever veggies you decided on).
Cook until veggies start to soften (but don’t overcook them - mushy vegetables are NOT our friends!), stirring often to keep everything from sticking.  (If you need to loosen things up, you can deglaze your pan, as you go, with a little of your pasta - or sun-dried tomato - water.)

Once veggies are almost done, add your tomatoes and mix well.  While they’re cooking for a minute or two, you should have time to drain your pasta.

Next, stir in your reserved chicken, fresh herbs and green onions/chives.  (If you’re using fresh tomatoes, just add them at the same time as the herbs.  You don’t really want fresh herbs or tomatoes to cook, you’re basically just warming them up.)

Now stir in your hot pasta and serve!  (Again, if you need to loosen things up a little, just add a bit of pasta water - or sun-dried tomato broth - and deglaze before serving.)
For a special touch, sprinkle with a little shredded parmesan cheese (or crumbled feta if you’re using the sun-dried tomatoes & Kalamata olives).

Mmmmm…quick & easy, fresh and delicious! 

NOTE:  It’s really good with a fresh loaf of hot crusty bread on the side.  J

If you try it, please let me know what you think!  I’ll be waiting for your reviews...



  1. I used to do something very similar with the addition of eggplant and deleting the chicken. Man, now I want some!

  2. Mmmm...eggplant sounds good. I may just have to try that! :-)