I did pretty well on last week’s meal plan. We had a few deviations, but overall, I stuck to it. I didn’t end up making the chicken and lentil stew because we were able to stretch our leftovers and decided on a dinner out on Friday night instead of Saturday. Instead of the pasta with sun-dried tomato and Brussels sprouts I planned, I made this chicken and vegetable pasta instead.
We topped the pasta with sausage bits, my version of bacon bits. I came up with this idea because we had some pinot grigio salame leftover from Christmas that needed to be eaten. My dear husbanders often takes cured Italian meats (soppresseta, genoa salami, prosciutto, etc.) that are nearing the end of their life and fries them up in a cast-iron pan. It sounds weird, but it really is no different from frying up some bacon. The fat renders and the result is a crispy, flavorful compliment to eggs at breakfast! I hadn’t tried his technique with dry sausage, but I figured it should work, so I gave it a shot. I sliced up the sausage, fried it up to a crisp, then chopped it into little bits. It was awesome. I don’t know why this hasn’t caught on. Am I doing something sacrilegious to Italian meats? Maybe, but it works!
This week, I’ve got a busy work week with events after work so meal planning for eating in is a challenge. Here is the plan and prep for January 13-19:
CHICKEN AND VEGETABLE PASTA WITH SAUSAGE BITS
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 chicken boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each thigh halved
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella but regular button mushrooms will work too)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
1-2 cups broccoli florets, blanched (this means cooking them quickly in boiling water, then shocking them in ice water – see my broccoli pasta salad for instructions)
approx. ¾ pound of rotini or penne (I used Barilla’s whole wheat rotini) cooked according to the instructions on the box
approx. 2 oz. of dried sausage, sliced thinly
Start the large pot of water for cooking the pasta and another pot of water for blanching the broccoli.
Salt and pepper the chicken. Place the flour in a shallow pan or plate and dredge (coat) the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess. In a large heavy bottom pan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the pan to brown, approximately 4-5 minutes on each side. Resist the temptation to move the chicken once you place it in the pan. Just flip once. You will probably have to do this in 2-3 batches. Remove the chicken and set aside.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box. Blanch the broccoli – click here for instructions on blanching.
In the same pan that was used for the chicken, add the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the onions begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and red peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally for another 5-6 minutes until all of the vegetables are softened. Don’t worry if the bottom of the pan is getting burnt crusties – that stuff adds flavor! As the veggies release some of their liquid, you can begin scraping some of the crusties up with a wooden spoon. If you can’t get it all, don’t worry!
While the veggies are cooking, in a small cast iron frying pan or regular frying pan over medium low heat, add the sausage slices and let them sizzle for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until they get crispy. Don’t look now, but you probably have 3-4 burners going at once (pasta, veggies, sausage, and broccoli!)
Once the veggies are soft, add the spices and the tomato paste and stir to coat evenly. Work quickly, you want to toast the tomato paste, but not burn it.
Once the veggies are coated, add the white wine. Now, deglaze the pan (i.e., scrap up all the remaining brown bits) with the white wine. Add ½ cup of water if the mixture is drying up. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the chicken. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
Add the cooked, drained, pasta and drained broccoli to the chicken and veggies. Stir to combine everything. Turn off the heat.
Remove the sausage slices from the frying pan and drain the fat. Chop into crumbles. Serve the pasta with chicken and top with sausage bits.