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for Connor

Connor was not a fan of the squash blossoms from the other day… although; Marissa, Dave, and I loved them. I felt I needed to make it up to him since he’ll only be home a few days before he heads back up to Flagstaff for summer school. I made this pasta with him in mind and then at the last minute, as I was about to throw in some goat cheese, remembered that he doesn’t like goat cheese as much as the rest of us.  That is the reason it is added at the end, allowed to just melt into the sauce and why I’ve made it “optional” – delish – with or without!  And if the roasted cherry tomatoes seem awfully familiar – they are, I’ve featured them here many times before, can’t help it, they are so good!

Roasted Cherry Tomato, Pancetta, and Chicken Vermicelli

1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced, divided
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
4-ounce diced pancetta
1/2 large white onion, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup dry white wine
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, divided
8-ounces dry vermicelli pasta
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 slices soft herb-coated goat cheese (chèvre), optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place tomato halves, in 1 layer, on a baking sheet. Add half of the minced garlic and the thyme sprigs to the baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place on the middle rack of preheated oven and roast until tomatoes are slightly browned, about 25 minutes. Discard the thyme sprig and set it aside.

Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on a cutting board. Place one chicken breast halve, former skin-side up, in the center of the wrap.  Fold over the wrap and use a meat-pounder or the bottom of a small heavy skillet to pound the breast into a thin even layer.  Repeat with remaining chicken breast and then season with salt and pepper on both sides.  Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom.  Add the pancetta and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook the pancetta until it is nearly crisp, about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the diced onion and Italian seasoning, increase the heat to medium, and sauté until the onion is soft and golden, about another 12 minutes, stirring often.

Season the mixture with salt and pepper and stir in the wine.  Place the pounded and seasoned chicken breast halves on top, reduce the heat to low, cover, and poach for about 3 minutes.  Uncover, turn over chicken and sprinkle with half of the lemon zest. Cover and cook another 3 minutes, or until chicken is just cooked through.

Remove chicken to a plate or board. Continue to cook the wine mixture to reduce slightly while you cut the chicken into bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente (about 5-6 minutes) drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Return the chicken to the skillet, along with the roasted tomatoes, and olive halves, and heat through.  Stir in enough of the pasta water to make a nice sauce.

Divide the pasta between 4 dinner plates or pasta bowls and top with the chicken-tomato mixture in a large mound.  Sprinkle each plate with Parmesan cheese and the remaining lemon zest. Place a disk of goat cheese in the center of each mound to melt into the hot mixture, if desired.

Serves 4


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4 comments

1 Grandma H. { 05.20.11 at 12:23 PM }

Looks scrumptious. I may try it. I don’t know what pancetta is, so I guess I’ll have to google it. So Connor is going to summer school & I assume living in his apt. Give him & everyone else my love.

2 Linda Hopkins { 05.20.11 at 2:17 PM }

Mom, pancetta is an Italian bacon, so just substitute regular bacon if you can’t find pancetta in your market. xoxo

3 Connor { 05.20.11 at 4:50 PM }

Thanks for the not goat cheese, Mom.

4 Linda Hopkins { 05.20.11 at 5:53 PM }

Anytime, darling boy. xoxo

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