Sometimes the foods we crave come to us from memories from places and people in our memories of long ago. Other times, they harken back to more recent times and less family centered occasions. For instance, I have a dish that I will call Green Chicken and Pasta for lack of a better name. The recipe for this dish didn’t come from a grandmother or great grandmother, but that doesn’t make me crave it any less. In fact, if I am really honest, I might call this Murder Trial Chicken and Pesto because it seems to me I crave it most when I am about half way through a week or two-week long murder trial.
The inspiration for this dish comes from a frozen dinner that I bought a few times at the store. It was so yummy and I got to thinking that I could make it pretty easily in a larger quantity to serve at a family dinner. I did make it, but it didn’t turn out exactly like the frozen dinner and that was fine. Over the years, our family has added stuff to it that wasn’t in the original frozen dinner and that is just fine too.
One of the things that I LOVE about this dish is that it can be as labor intensive as one wants it to be. A cook can spend an hour or more cooking the chicken and chopping everything or one can simply combine already prepared items to make a lovely dish with very little work depending on one’s time and desire.
The ingredients are pretty straight forward. You will need a couple of chicken breast cooked through. In the years since I started making this, I have made it with sauteed chicken breast that I cut up myself and I have made it with chicken breast ripped off a rotisserie chicken. I have even made it with with chicken breast I had cooked in the crock pot to make chicken salad, but decided I had too much for that purpose. Anyway, we need about two cooked chicken breast which will then be sliced up or pulled apart into whatever size pieces one likes in their meal.
Next, you need to cook a pound of pasta. I like Penne pasta for this dish but that is just a matter of preference. One could use whatever one had on hand. I have made it with thin spaghetti and it was just fine.
Then you will need pesto sauce. Now, I can make a pesto sauce and have done it a time or two just to prove it. However, it involves pulling out the food processor and mine is an old one that involves a lot of moving parts that need to be cleaned afterwards. I don’t care to spend most of my evening washing dishes, so I generally skip this part and simply buy some already made. I like the Rana Meal Solutions Basil Pesto Sauce and I use one of the big jars of it in this recipe. It is in the refrigerated section by the frozen pasta at most stores.
Those who want to make their own pesto, can try the Ina Garten’s recipe. It is the one that I make when I bother to make it myself.
I also put sauteed cherry tomatoes in this dish and, to me, they are the star of the show. I only had one small tub of them on hand the night I took the photos for this dish. However, I have been known to add to two or three times that much to the dish when cooking it just for me. When I make this dish for me, I like the tomatoes and olives to almost outnumber the pasta.
Speaking of olives, one can use sliced or whole olives. I like black ones. I generally put one small can of chopped olives in this dish and one to two cans of big pitted olives if I am going with whole olives. Honestly, that usually just depends on which kind I happen to have in the pantry when I reach for them.
In addition, I have been known to add bacon to this dish because, well, doesn’t bacon make everything better? I have made it with bacon that I cooked for breakfast and then had left over so it got crumbled up in the dish. However, I have also used real bacon pieces that I bought in a bag and just poured into the pot.
So, to make this dish, one should cook the chicken or cut it away from the rotisserie chicken and cook the pasta. Go ahead and cut the chicken to the size that looks right for the people who are going to eat it.
In a large pan, cook the tomatoes in some olive oil with a little bit of butter still they start to pop. I add garlic and onion powder to taste along with black pepper. I sometimes also add a clove or two of real garlic, but I LOVE garlic. Once the tomatoes are starting to break open, add the olives, and chicken so it can start to warm up. Then add the pesto sauce to the mix and let it warm up. Those adding bacon can add it along with the sauce. Then, I like to put a little bit of olive oil or butter with garlic on the pasta before adding it to the mix. But that is just a personal preference and I have made it for other people without doing that. It wasn’t as garlicky as I like, but that can be a good thing for some folks.
Once everything is stirred together and nice and hot, I serve it with a salad and some sort of hot bread. This makes a huge pot of pasta. Luckily, that means I can eat on it for several days during a trial and not have to cook again until the jury reaches its verdict. The dish also freezes well and makes great lunches.