Mediterranean Chicken Pasta

I think it was like 1994 when I first started making this pasta for the family, but back then we called it "Greek" anything with feta cheese and kalamata olives must be Greek.  That was then and this is now and I'm still making our "Greek pasta", only now we call it Mediterranean. But not only has the name evolved, but over the years I've played with the ingredients and changed some of the flavors and this is now, after 20 years, the way it was always meant to be.  Until I tweak it again.  But that's sort of doubtful, seeing as how we're pretty stoked about this version and I can't even tell you how happy I am to have it exactly where I want it now.

So yeah, it's called Mediterranean Chicken Pasta and I totally made it without chicken on this particular night, which happens to be legal and equally delicious.  You can also sub out the chicken for tofu (so not Greek) or shrimp, if you like.  It's all good.  Also, I usually throw in a couple handfuls of baby spinach, which I didn't happen to have, but you will when you make it, I'm sure.

I've actually sort of vacillated on whether to post this recipe or just keep it on file in the recipe index so I could refer to it when needed.  But in the end, I decided that if we love it this much, perhaps you might want to know about that, and my conscience just wouldn't let me bury the recipe where only I could find it, in complete violation of my blogging ethics, which at its core holds the concept of sharing inviolable (please don't refer back to my cheesecake post on this).

So here we are, talking about Mediterranean pasta, which is nothing earth shattering or ground breaking or life altering, except that it makes a wondrously fun, delicious and wholesome meal for the family.  And the leftovers (there usually aren't any) can be mighty great for lunch the next day.

There's something to be said about family meals that become tradition and here's the recipe for one of ours...

Mediterranean Chicken Pasta

Click here for a printable recipe

This is one of our family’s traditional go-to pastas.  Use whatever kind of pasta you like, but short pasta works better as opposed to spaghetti or linguini.  Campanelle is my default shape for this, but bowties (farfalle) work great too.  You can leave out the chicken or substitute with tofu or shrimp.  Throw in some kale instead of the spinach, if you like.  It's all good!

1 pound pasta, such as campanelle, cooked to al dente (1 minute less than box instructions)
1 lb of chicken breasts (or thighs)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ cup white wine
2 cups diced tomatoes (cherry tomatoes or romas)
A good handful or two of fresh baby spinach leaves (optional)
1 can artichoke hearts in water, drained, quartered
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted (1/4 pound)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil
½ cup toasted pine nuts
 1 ½ cups grated parmesan cheese
1 cup pasta water, reserved

Prep Work...

Slice, dice or otherwise cut up your chicken breasts or thighs into large-ish bite-sized pieces
Cook the pasta in lots of boiling, salted water for 1 minute less than the box directions.  Reserve 1        cup of the cooking water right before draining the pasta.  Do not rinse.
Mince the shallots and the garlic
Chop the tomatoes and quarter the artichokes
Toast the pinenuts
Slice the Kalamata olives

Heat oil in a skillet over medium or medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then add it to the pan. Saute until just cooked through.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Add a little more olive oil to the pan if needed, and then add the shallots and garlic to the skillet. Sauté on medium heat for 2 minutes.   Add dried basil, oregano, crushed red pepper and garlic, and sauté for a couple more minutes and then add wine to the pan.  Simmer for 2 minutes and then add the tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and feta cheese to the skillet. Simmer for another minute.  Add the chicken back to the pan and stir to combine.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and add the pasta cooking water as necessary to create a creamy sauce.  Toss to coat the pasta.  Stir in the spinach, if using, and then cover the pan and let it sit off the heat for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce a little.  

To serve, pour the pasta into a large serving bowl, top with parmesan, fresh basil and toasted pine nuts.

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