Today is National Pasta Day. Pasta to me is an expression of all things Italian. Once upon a time, Hubby and I loved a little hole in the wall Italian restaurant. It was – how do I put this – reminiscent of a Speak Easy or Private Dinner Club run by the mob.
It was dark, with no windows. You almost felt as though you were eating in an underground establishment. No windows meant no drive-by tommy gun hits and Al Capone could eat in peace. The wait staff were elderly, speaking in broken English as though they had just cleared customs at Elis Island. And you could swear the kitchen was run by a strict Italian Nonna.
Best of all, it really didn’t much matter what you ordered, spaghetti in a marinara sauce was the pasta side. Chicken Piccata, with a side of spaghetti.
This amazing, very Italian eatery was a family run business. It began with the grandparents, then the parents and finally two brothers. Unfortunately the brothers had differing ideas as to what the future should look like, and those creative differences meant parting ways. The only thing they agreed upon was to close the doors to what had once been a neighborhood landmark.
The easiest way to celebrate National Pasta Day would be to find a great hole in the wall Italian restaurant. Or make this super easy dish that is quick and packed with fresh flavors. Don’t forget the warm bread and plenty of wine!
Pesto Pasta Chicken
3 Garlic Cloves, unpeeled
1-1/2 cup fresh Basil
1 cup Baby Spinach
¼ cups Pine Nuts
1/2 cup Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
Toast garlic in a small skillet over medium-heat, shaking pan occasionally, until fragrant and color deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let garlic cool, then peel and chop coarse.
Process garlic, basil, spinach, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down bowl as needed. Add Parmesan Cheese, continue to process until thoroughly combined. Transfer pesto to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. (Mixture can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours).
16 oz Cellentani Pasta
2 cups Rotisserie Chicken Breasts
2 medium Tomatoes
1/4 cup Pine Nuts
1 cup Pesto Sauce
In a Dutch oven, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pan.
While the pasta cooks, remove and discard the skin from the rotisserie chicken. Pull the breast meat from the chicken, cube and set aside. Reserve dark meat, cut from the bone, for another purpose such as chicken salad sandwiches.
Cut tomatoes in half, remove seeds. Chop tomatoes into bite-size pieces, set aside.
In a dry skillet, lightly toast pine nuts, set aside.
To the Dutch Oven with cooked pasta, add chicken, tomatoes and pesto sauce. Stir to blend well, coating everything lightly pesto sauce; heat through. Sprinkle with pine nuts.
Serve and enjoy!