Lunch on the Veranda
Here in Chicago, I look out my window right now and see the streets, sidewalks, and trees covered in a light dusting of snow. Not my favorite time of the year as my mind soars to visions of the warm sun, the smell of the Mediterranean, and the feeling that time has stopped…even for a bit.
I won’t deny it, I love the warm weather. I love those times of the year when you don’t need a jacket to step outside, the windows can be open, and you can opt for outdoor seating when dining. Even when you have the usual rigors of work and responsibilities, a light lunch in a scenic outdoor spot is pure heaven.
A few weeks ago I was hit with what can only be called as a craving for pasta. It had been a while since I made a pasta dish, and I decided to cast aside thoughts of cutting carbs and simply indulge. At the same time I was working on vacation photos to post on Flickr, and the sights of our recent European trip made me long for the kinds of light pasta dishes one would imagine eating outside on some beautiful setting. The kind of dish that doesn’t make you feel full and ready for a nap.
So I looked around online and in the grocery store, found ingredients I desired and went from there. I know in America we tend to love our pasta in large amounts with big thick sauces. I don’t deny how delicious that can be, but what I love about pasta is you can literally take it in almost any direction based on the ingredients you wish to put in. Beef, pork, chicken, or seafood, vegetables or not, it’s up to your palette.
My palette wanted light, with broccoli, chicken, and sun-dried tomatoes. Here’s what I made.
Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- 1 pound of pasta
- Olive oil
- 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 6 ounces of sun-dried tomatoes, sliced (pat dry if packed in oil)
- 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup of chicken broth
- 1/2 cup of dry white wine
- 1 shot (1 to 1.5 oz) of dry sherry
- 2 tbsp of basil
- 1 tbsp of oregano
- 1 bag (1 pound) of frozen broccoli, defrosted
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a stock pot, fill halfway with water and add in 4 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of salt. Bring this mixture to boil.
- Place pasta into boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain out the water and set aside the pasta.
- Heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil in stock pot on high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
- Place chicken in pan and sear each side (3-5 min per side). Set chicken aside.
- In the same pot, heat up two more tbsp of olive oil on medium heat.
- Place onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and red pepper flakes into the oil. Cook until the onions begin to soften.
- Cut the seared chicken breasts into slices and add them into the pot.
- Stir in the chicken broth, wine, sherry, basil, and oregano.
- Bring the liquids to a boil and then turn down heat to medium-low. Simmer and stir occasionally until the liquids thicken and the chicken is done.
- Place the broccoli into the pot and allow it to become heated.
- Add in the pasta and stir to fully mix all ingredients together.
I did not specify what pasta to use because it’s up to you. I used spaghetti, but rotini, linguini, shells, or whatever pasta you like will work here.
When cooking the broccoli, wait until it’s as soft as you like before adding the pasta. I like mine more crunchy, but others like theirs soft.
If you want to make the meal “fancier” then you can cook the broccoli separate, and keep the pasta, chicken, broccoli, and sauce all separate…then assemble each dish as you see fit. I personally just like to mix it all together and let the flavors meld on one another.
You can variate any which way you like. Seriously. The best aspect of pasta is you can play around with ingredients and make it your own. Try using roasted red peppers as opposed to the tomatoes, or spinach instead of the broccoli.
Top the dish with your favorite grated dry Italian cheese. Have some nice fresh lightly toasted bread nearby and maybe a nice glass of your favorite red wine.