I'm back!! I missed you guys!! Been a crazy couple of months and there still might be a bit more craziness (actually the good kind, so let's keep our fingers crossed) but I will definitely have more time to spend in the kitchen and more time to write about it, which means you can expect a whole slew of delicious Fall recipes! I don't know about you, but next to summer, Fall is my favorite season--first there are the gorgeous seasonal color changes and then there's all that yummy warm-weather food that we haven't been exposed to for months, not to mention pumpkins, apples, pears and cranberries--need I say more?!! There are so many autumnal recipes I've been itching to make!! First in the queue is this wonderful chicken and mushroom pasta sauce that's thick, hearty, and utterly delicious!! Perfect for these chilly nights!
Today we're getting a bit fancy around these parts and calling this a ragú but all that really means is that it's a meat-based sauce served with pasta, generally cooked long and slow. Traditionally most of them are made with beef or pork--this one, with it's chicken base is not only a bit unique but also cooks in about 40 minutes or so, which makes it entirely doable even on a weeknight. Plus, the addition of not only fresh mushrooms but also dried chopped porcini mushrooms gives it a rustic hearty earthiness that reminds me of something I was served long ago in a little no-named, no visibly written menu Italian restaurant on a hilltop on the Amalfi coast. It's one of the most memorable meals I've ever had (though I'm still not quite sure what I ate!) and this stew-like pasta sauce brings me right back there! What is it about Italy that makes even the simplest dishes seem like a meal fit for a king?!! Chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes, parmesan cheese--YUM!! Treat yourself royally and make this tonight!!
Chicken and Mushroom Ragú over Shells
Makes about 4 servings
Prep Time: 45-50 minutes
- One 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Salt and black pepper
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thinly
- 2 shallots, minced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and minced
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- One 16 ounce box pasta ( I used medium shells)
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley for serving (optional)
1. Place the tomatoes in a food processor and pulse about 8 times until they are chopped fine. Set aside.
2. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat and when melted, add the chicken and cook until the chicken is well browned on both sides, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
3. Into the same skillet, add the sliced mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms have begun to release their juices and are starting to get brown around the edges. Add in the shallots, garlic and chopped porcini mushrooms and cook for another minute or so. Then add in the tomatoes and chicken broth, stirring and scraping the bottom for any browned bits. Add the chicken back in and turn the heat up. When the mixture begins to boil, lower the heat to a simmer and let cook for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is entirely cooked through. Test and see, if the chicken still looks underdone, cook it for longer.
4. Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the pan and when cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-sized pieces. Add it back into the sauce and keep warm over low heat. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary.
5. Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and add some salt. Bring to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions, until al dente. Remove about 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the rest. Return the pasta to the pot, add the remaining butter and about 1 cup of the pasta sauce. If necessary, pour in some of the reserved pasta water to thin out and loosen the mixture. Serve the pasta in bowls, top with more of the sauce and sprinkle on Parmesan cheese and parsley if you like.
6. The sauce can be made a day or two ahead and reheated in a saucepan. Pour over freshly cooked pasta.
Note: Recipe adapted from The Best Chicken Recipes by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated. I toyed around a lot with this one. Doubled the recipe, subbed in chicken breasts for thighs and cut the oregano and red wine.