Sunday, October 16, 2016

Paccheri or Rigatoni Pasta with Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream

This pasta dish takes a bit of time, but it's not difficult and I think it's worth the effort. The recipe was created by the husband and wife chef team of Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre of Minneapolis, and published in Bon Appetit (

The original recipe serves 4-6, but I modified it to serve 2-3. It takes about 2 hours to prepare and cook.

Paccheri and rigatoni are both short, wide tubular pastas. Paccheri the shorter of the two. It is originally from the Campania and Calabria regions of southwestern Italy. In Sarasota, paccheri can be purchased at Peperonata Pasta on South Tamiami Trail. Peperonata makes its own paccheri. 

The story goes that paccheri was  originally created to smuggle Italian garlic into Austria after Austrian farmers convinced their government to ban the import of the more flavorful Italian garlic.


- 12 oz boneless chicken breast (the original calls for thighs with skin and bones. I took the easier and probably less flavorful approach.) I cut this thick chicken breast into quarters before cooking.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped white onion 
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
- 1 cup (or more) dry white wine
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed. (Publix carries a small package of saffron threads for $6.19 in the spice section.)
- 1 & 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 6 oz. of paccheri or rigatoni pasta
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil


1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet, skin-side down if you use thighs. Cook until golden brown - about 7 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to plate.

2. Add onion and garlic to skillet and cook until onions are slightly softened - 7 to 8 minutes. Add wine and saffron and bring to a boil.

3. Continue to boil until liquid is thickened and reduced by less than half - about 8 minutes. Add 1 & 1/4 cups of the the 1 & 1/2 cups of chicken broth.

4. Return chicken to skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer until chicken is very tender (adjust heat to prevent boiling, and turn chicken over after 30 minutes), about 1 hour total. Transfer chicken to plate and cool.

5. Reserve skillet with juices. If using thighs, remove skin and bones and toss. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces. Place in medium bowl and reserve.

6. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender, but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta and return to pot.

7. If using thighs, spoon and discard any fat from the juices in the skillet. Add heavy cream to juices in the skillet and boil until sauce is thick enough to coat spoon - about 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and chicken pieces. Stir over medium heat until heated through - about 5 minutes, stirring in an additional 1/4 cup chicken broth if needed to add a bit of sauce and an additional teaspoon of lemon juice, if desired. (I added the broth but not more juice.) Season with salt and pepper.

8. Add the chicken and sauce mixture to the pasta in the pot, and toss to coat. Stir in the basil. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts, White Wine, and Prosciutto

This is an easy and delicious dish that I created and that serves two.

Ingredients (in the sequence in which they're used)

- 4 oz. of spaghetti or angel hair pasta
- 2 tbsp olive oil (for cooking sauce)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 sweet onion, diced
- 1/2 cup white wine (I used a chardonnay)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- small jar can of artichoke hearts (I used a 7.5 oz jar of marinated artichoke hearts)
- 1/4 cup pitted and chopped olives (I used castelvetrano green olives)
- 2 tbsp capers
- 1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 1 to 2 oz finely chopped prosciutto (I used Citterio prechopped prosciutto, which comes in 4 oz. packages. I typically mix it into salads)
- 1 to 2 tbsp of very high quality extra virgin olive oil. (I used Persian lime flavored oil.) This is to pour over finished pasta.


1. Pasta
Cook pasta until al dente, per package directions. Drain and put in serving bowl.

2. Sauce
a. Heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat

b. Sauté onion and garlic for 5 minutes

c. Add white wine, lemon juice, and artichoke hearts. Cook for 3 minutes.

d. Add olives, capers, and parsley. Cook for 2 minutes. Wine and lemon juice will have evaporated.

e. Spoon over pasta and mix. Then sprinkle prosciutto and olive oil over pasta and mix again.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Fish in Crazy Water - Pesce all-Acqua Pazza

The Sorrentine Peninsula of Italy is an incredibly beautiful place and one of its iconic dishes is Pezzogna all'Acqua Pazza - Sea Bream in Crazy Water. It is often called by the more generic name - Pesce all'Acqua Pasta - Fish in Crazy Water. I enjoyed this dish when we visited Sorrento and decided to try making it this evening. I was very happy with the results. I could not find sea bream, so I used flounder. The recipe is very easy to make.

There are many different versions of this recipe. The one I made tonight is a combination of two of those recipes and some modifications of my own. One source is the website Summer in Italy - The second is from the cookbook, Naples at Table, Cooking in Campania, which includes recipes from all over the Campania Region of southwest Italy.

This recipe serves two.


- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white wine 
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 2/3 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced. I used mini San Marzano tomatoes
- 1/2 cup sliced olives (optional) I used Castelvetrano olives imported from Sicily and sold at Publix
- 1 tbsp capers (optional)
- 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 2 fillets of a fish like sea bass, branzino, halibut, or snapper


1. Put olive oil, water, wine, salt, red pepper, flakes, and cherry tomatoes into a large skillet and boil for 5 minutes.

2. Add fish, olives, and capers; and cook for six minutes. After the first 3 minutes, use a pair of wide spatulas to gently turn the fish fillets over.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Vesuviotti Pasta with Scallops and Onion-Zucchini-Tomato Cream Sauce

I recently bought an interesting imported Italian pasta type called Vesuviotti, which means little Vesuviuses because its shape is apparently meant to symbolize Mt. Vesuvius erupting. I found it at Detweiler's Farm Market.


I came up with an easy sauce that went very well with it. I started with the following recipe from - - and adapted it. I added zucchini and scallops. I substituted cherry tomatoes for canned tomatoes and half and half for cream (so I wouldn't have to go to the store just to buy cream.) I also reduced a couple of ingredients because it was just for the two of us. In addition, I changed the directions a bit. 

I think shrimp would also work nice in this dish.


- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 small zucchini sliced into 1/4" rounds
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1/2 tbsp dried basil (original recipe called for 1 tbsp)
- 3/4 tsp white sugar
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup half & half
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 & 1/2 cups Vesuviotti pasta
- 1 eight-ounce pkg of Publix frozen garlic cream Patagonian scallops (Publix has BOGO sales on these scallops from time to time, and I buy them to use with pasta.)

(I once tried to see how many types of pasta I could identify. I stopped at 365 because there seemed to be no end. Vesuviotti was not one of them.)


1. Boil pasta for 12-14 minutes, then drain.

2. While pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce:

a. In a saucepan, sauté onion and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

b. Add tomatoes, zucchini, spices and half & half, and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes.

c. Add butter and simmer for 5 more minutes.

3. After starting step 2.b. above, cook the frozen scallops for 6-8 minutes in a non-stick pan.

4. Plate the pasta and top with scallops and sauce.