Honestly, we’re not about chef-level home cooking. A nice home cooked meal with an actual vegetable and we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves. But we do like to entertain! So, we’ve had to cultivate a few back-pocket recipes for those times when cooking for a large crowd is required. Like waiting for that Thanksgiving turkey to be done already. This is our go-to dish for everything from school potluck dinners to Superbowl Sunday. It works for everyone from vegans (leave out the chicken + cheese) to wheat-free types (use corn or rice pasta) if you adjust accordingly. Best of all, it is so fast and easy; you can actually do it the day of your party and leave to sit in the fridge (or at room temperature) for hours. You can also make this the night before, if you like, but you really won’t need to. For this hearty, healthy dish, you are looking at maybe at 40 minutes prep time, tops, and most of that will be slicing vegetables. This recipe serves about 10 to 20 people. Ready?
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A big pot for blanching broccoli and boiling pasta (if you don’t have a huge pot, you may have to cook the pasta in two lots)
- A colander to drain pasta and broccoli.
- A good knife and cutting board.
- A rasp or microplane grater: I use this one: http://www.cuisipro.com/en/Graters/Fine-Rasp-plu74-7161.html
- An extra large mixing bowl
- A large serving bowl
- 10 x skinless chicken breasts
- 2 x 16oz. boxes of penne pasta. We use Barilla
- 2 x punnets of broccoli florets (or two heads of broccoli)
- Extra virgin olive oil (We like California Ranch)
- About ½ cup good quality Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 2-3 x punnets of grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes) whichever looks better
- 2 x punnets of Bocconcini mozzarella. We like Bel Gioioso.
1. Marinate those chicken breasts (!) so if you like to get a head start the day before, this is where to do it. We make our own marinade, but you can use any store bought Italian dressing, if pressed for time. Marinate at least 1 hour (up to overnight) in a covered glass dish.
2. Prep the vegetables. Cut the broccoli, tomatoes and cheese into chunky bite size pieces. Something easily managed without the use of a knife.
3. Once good and marinated, lay the chicken breasts out on a baking pan (we use foil to line the pan, but you don’t have to).
4. Broil or grill them until thoroughly cooked on each side (about 10 minutes). Always err on the side of overcooking the chicken for this dish, so it can safely sit out at room temperature for a bit.
5. While the chicken is cooking, salt and boil the water. When it hits a rolling boil, throw the broccoli in for about 30 seconds, until bright green and crisp tender. DO NOT turn you back for a minute. Blanching broccoli happens quickly. Remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Rinse under cold water and toss a few ice cubes on top to stop it cooking.
6. Use that same broccoli water to cook the pasta. Follow directions on the box for “al dente.” Do not overcook.
7. Drain pasta, coat with a generous slosh of the olive oil (about 5 tablespoons) and set aside to cool.
8. Once the pasta is room temperature, combine all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Mix ingredients with pasta to make sure everything is well coated with the oil. Maybe bump it up with a bit of garlic salt and seasoning.
9. Transfer to the serving bowl. Grate the Parmigiano Reggiano and sprinkle on top.
10. Cover lightly, pour yourself a drink and wait for your guests to arrive. You’re done, clever thing.