The above picture is the cavatappi I usually make. Boring! There’s no zip, no zazz, and certainly no zap. Basically it is just pasta, olive oil, garlic, and sun dried tomatoes. **Yawn** It’s strictly side dish material. Always a bridesmaid and never the bride. Cavatappi can do better. Cavatappi deserves better. We will promote you to Main Course with marinated and grilled chicken!
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, each breast cut crosswise into 3 pieces
- 1 cup balsamic vinaigrette
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup chopped onion or shallots
- 1 pound baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 cups fresh spinach (washed and trimmed)
- handful of sun dried tomatoes
- 1 cup dry Marsala wine
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese or quark
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves, plus whole sprigs, for garnish
- 1 box of cavatappi, a.k.a. cellentani or double elbows
About a half an hour before you plan to start cooking, rinse the chicken and place in a Ziploc bag with the vinaigrette. Stick those babies in the fridge and cool your heels. Say “cavatappi” a few times out loud.
Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Grill outside or heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken and cook just until brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cool slightly.
Chop up that garlic and onion (I used shallots and some onion but you have a right to choose in this kitchen).
While the chicken cools, melt butter to the same skillet over medium-high heat, then add the onion and sun dried tomatoes, then saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic, then saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 12 minutes.
Add the wine and simmer until it is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Stir in the mascarpone and mustard.
Cut the chicken breasts crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through and the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cavatappi and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain. Toss with sauce and add the fresh spinach leaves.
Variation: I added extra garlic to mine because I LOVE garlic. You have options though. Who am I to rob you of garlic? I roast more than I need for the pasta because I put roasted garlic in the herb butter that I use on the bread served with the cavatappi. Here’s my recipe:
3 heads garlic
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Slice off the top each head of garlic to expose some of the cloves inside. Place each head in some olive oil poured in a bowl and let them soak up some oil.
Place the heads on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in the foil. Roast until cloves are lightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes.
NOTE: Please forgive me for all the pictures. I have Josh’s fancy-pants camera and I just can’t help myself. I don’t mean to insult your integrity… I know that you know what spinach looks like. Truce?