Looking for ways with pasta without the usual ground red meat, bacon, sausages and everything fatty in thick red sauce? Make this chicken pasta with mushrooms, vegetables and pesto. It’s so rich in taste and texture! In lieu of the usual tomato-based red sauce, toss the hot pasta with pesto. Home made, if possible. Kids might balk at the idea at first but, given time and with lots of encouragement, they can learn about new ways to enjoy their pasta.
How did this dish come about? My younger daughter, Alex, woke me up on a Saturday morning with an announcement that she wanted pasta for lunch. With pesto, she said, and chicken. I said, sure, and figured I might as well go all the way and add mushrooms and a medley of vegetables too. She helped with the cooking, grated the cheese, cut the mushrooms and tomatoes, and did some stirring, then we had a great chicken pasta lunch.
- 2 chicken quarters about 700 grams, boiled in salted water, deboned and cut into chunks
- 225 grams pasta (spaghetti, fettucine or whatever shape you prefer)
- 1/4 cup pesto (or more)
- 1 large or two medium-sized bell peppers cored, seeds removed and diced
- 3 to 4 tomatoes diced
- 2 to 3 eggplants diced
- 2 finger chilis thinly sliced
- 1 large onion diced
- 200 grams button mushrooms brown or white, cut into quarters
- 4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil
- a sprig of fresh basil leaves sliced thinly
- 100 grams sharp cheddar (parmesan, if you prefer), cheese grated
- salt and pepper
Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and toss with the pesto.
While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large pan (large, because you’ll add the pasta afterwards and the pan should be large enough for you to be able to toss everything together).
Add the eggplants (they take longest to cook), cook until they start to soften then add the rest of the vegetables. Cook, stirring, for about a minute then add the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Add the pasta and toss until everything is heated through.
Now, the cheese. Here’s where you’ll have to make a decision. You can add the cheese (reserving some for garnish) to the pasta and vegetables before tossing them together or you can simply serve the cheese on the side and everyone can just add as much or as little cheese as they want. The thing is, adding grated cheese to pan makes the sauce a bit thicker. The cheese melts right there, makes everything sticky and it’s really, really nice. But some people have issues with cheese so it really depends on who’s eating the pasta dish.
The basil leaves… They aren’t just for garnish although I must admit that visible greens on top of the pasta give the dish a more festive appearance. You might think that there has to be enough basil flavor and aroma in the pesto but, honestly, fresh basil adds so much more depth to the chicken pasta.
And there’s the cooked chicken pasta with mushrooms, vegetables and pesto — filling without the bloated feeling, flavorful and aromatic and simply delicious!