One of the favored dishes in our home is our variation of Chicken Parmesan with Creamy Pesto Rigatoni. Traditionally prepared in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle, the northern Italian pesto evolved from the ancient roman herb paste moretum. The pesto we enjoy today adapted in Genoa, Italy with the addition of pine nuts and pasta (corzetti pasta is native to Genoa) to create a whole new dish. The classic recipe consists of garlic, basil, European pine nuts ground to a paste in a mortar and then incorporating in the olive oil and a grated hard cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano or Peccorino) or sheep’s milk cheese (Fiore Sardo). As there are many varieties of Basil the preferred type of Basil for Italian food is Sweet Basil. The similar French paste, Persillade, substitutes parsley for basil with the addition of vinegar.
Great sides for this dish are Caesar salad and focaccia bread or garlic bread. To wet my whistle I paired a Nickel&Nickel Chardonnay, from Carneros in Napa Valley, because of its strong notes of Oak and buttery finish. Without further ado here is our recipe.
Chicken Pesto Rigatoni
1 lb Dry Rigatoni Noodles
2 -2&1/2lbs Boneless Chicken Thighs
2 Cups Grated Parmesan Cheese (Kraft Parmesan is good but fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano is better)
2 Envelopes of “Good Seasonings – Italian Dressing”
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 Cups Basil (fresh)
3 Cloves Garlic (fresh)
1 medium Shallot
1/4 Cup+ Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2/3 Cup+ Grated Parmesan Cheese
Kosher Salt & Black Pepper- As needed
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1. Preheat Oven to 400 degrees
2. In a bowl combine Parmesan, Garlic Powder and Good Seasonings packet.
3. Trim and remove excess fat and tendons from Chicken Thighs as much as possible. Chicken no longer requires rinsing due to FDA meat standards.
4. Dip and coat the chicken thighs in the Parmesan breading on each side.
5. Cook for 20 minutes (check for doneness by cutting open one of the thighs at the thickest part to ensure no raw chicken/pink flesh is present. Looking for a nice white moist flesh)
6. Let Chicken rest and set aside covered with tin foil.
7. Boil Rigatoni in Salted water as per instructions on the box.
8. Drain cooked pasta. (Don’t rinse, this will keep a coating of starched on the pasta to help the pesto and Chicken stick to the pasta shell and thickens sauce.)
9. Add cleaned Basil leaves and one whole clove of Garlic to a food processor. Chop until fine but not at the paste stage.
10. Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Pulse the processor just to mix .
11. Add Parmesan to Processor and Blend just to combine and emulsify the EVOO.
12. Season Pesto with Salt and Pepper. (The pasta and Chicken have been salted so only salt enough to enhance the Basil flavor. You don’t want to taste the salt in the pesto.)
(In this stage of the pesto you are looking for a thicken mixture that holds it’s shape)
13. Mince 1/4 cup of Shallot and 2 cloves of garlic.
14. In large Skillet heat 1 Tbsp EV Olive Oil, cook shallots on low until iridescent and then add garlic and cook s
15. Add the heavy cream and pesto to sautéed shallots and garlic. Reduce on simmer for 5-10 minutes for a sauce consistency that will coat the back of a spoon.
16. Chop cooked Parmesan chicken into bite size cubes
17. Toss finished pasta, chicken and pesto together for a meal that will impress.
18. Pine nuts can be added to Pesto Sauce along with the Basil and Garlic in the Food Processor. Beware they have a strong flavor.
This recipe is an original from our home and we hope you enjoy this meal in your home soon.