pasta with chicken, broccoli, and oven-roasted tomatoes

A couple weeks ago when I opened the fridge to assess the eating situation (a daily occurrence), I noticed there were a few funner-than-usual ingredients—grilled chicken, roasted broccoli, lemons. Stooped over, the chilled air swirling around my face, I got struck with a sudden hankering for something new and exciting to eat.

Something bright and vibrant.
Lots of veggies.
A big flavor punch.
A little exotic, maybe.
Kind of salad-y, but fortifying.
Family friendly.

So I lugged my Cook’s Illustrated tome from the shelf by the chimney and set about scouring the index for the perfect dish. I found it, too! Not just a recipe to use things up, but a recipe worthy of purchasing ingredients for.

The original recipe seemed rather fussy, calling for cooking the meat in butter, boiling the broccoli in the pasta water, etc, etc. But since my broccoli and chicken were already cooked, I was a couple steps ahead. My advice: do what I did! Here’s how:

*Grill the chicken ahead of time. Grilled chicken is faster and tastier than nearly any other chicken method—I DID NOT KNOW THIS UNTIL THIS SUMMER, WOE IS ME—and it is my new, to-have-on-hand meat. I buy large packs of boneless thighs from Costco and then grill a whole bunch at one time. We eat what we want, and the leftovers go into the fridge (or freezer), ready to be chopped up and added to anything.

Process: cover the bottom of a large pan with a single layer of chicken pieces (there is no need to trim the fat—it’s all good) and drizzle the meat with olive oil, sprinkling liberally with salt and black pepper. Place the pieces—flipping them so the oiled tops are on the bottom—on the grill. Sprinkle the tops with more salt and pepper, and drizzle with more olive oil (if you want). Grill on medium-high heat for 20 minutes or so, turning every few minutes, until the meat is nicely browned and the juices run clear when stabbed. THAT’S IT. I served a piece to my mom, alongside some curried lentils, and she got all gaspy. “Oh my! What is the marinade? Is it vinegar based?” “Nope, no marinade,” I said smugly, tee-hee-hee.

*Roast the broccoli. (Y’all probably do this all the time already, right?) Fill a large pan with fresh broccoli, drizzle it with lots of olive oil, give it a dusting of salt, and roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so. I serve it as a side dish, keeping leftovers in the fridge for later meals or to add to soups, stir fries, curries, pastas, whatever.

ANYWAY. If you have those components on hand, this meal comes together right quick. I doubled the recipe and the leftovers were fought over.

Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli, and Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.

When fresh, the dish is saucy, but as it sits, the pasta soaks up more liquid. Either way is delicious, but I’m partial to the wine-y sauce.

6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 onions, chopped
12 garlic cloves, minced
1½ teaspoons dried thyme (or 4 teaspoons fresh)
4 teaspoons flour
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cups chicken broth
1½ cups dry white wine
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
2 cups oven-roasted tomatoes, cut into strips
2 pounds grilled chicken thighs, cut into strips
3 pounds oven-roasted broccoli
1 tablespoon dried parsley (or 2 tablespoons fresh)
1 pound pasta (rotini, penne, or ziti)
lemon wedges, for serving

for the sauce:
In a large kettle, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, and then saute the onion with ½ teaspoon of salt until the onions are soft and slightly brown.

Add the garlic, thyme, flour, and pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds. Whisk in the broth and wine and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, uncovered, until the sauce has reduced by 1-2 cups. It will require all your will power to refrain from ladling the sauce into a mug and drinking it straight. Stay strong.

Add the chicken, Parmesan, tomatoes, broccoli, parsley, and remaining butter. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until heated through.

to assemble:
Cook the pasta according to package instructions, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce and meat. If you’d like more liquid, add the reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper. Serve, and don’t forget to pass the lemon wedges and more fresh Parmesan.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (10.6.14), catching our breath, it’s for real, a good book, one foggy morning, at least I tried, rustic cornmeal soup with beet greens, a touchy subject, and the donut party, part one and part two.

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