I promised my dear friend and Little Big reader Anne that I would share a few recipes that utilize leftover cooked chicken. Whether you like to roast your own or buy rotisserie chickens from the store, it seems like we all have, at some time or another, leftover chicken to deal with. When Isobel was first eating solids one of her favorite things to eat (and during some picky stages, the only solid food she’d reliably eat) would be cooked chicken. She happily ate it plain but I got tired of the same old thing and I found many delicious ways of incorporating it into a wide variety of dinners. The first one I have for you is that great flexible standby: pasta.
You can add cooked chicken to all kinds of different pasta dishes. I just happened to notice a two-for-one special on fresh spinach pasta at my grocery store. My favorite accompaniments to spinach will always be lemon and garlic, which also pairs well with a neutral creamy sauce, such as Alfredo. Now, a true alfredo sauce, any Italian grandmother will tell you, isn’t made with any cream at all, but I really like this version and it’s much easier for me to get right. At the end of the day, my sauce made with cream is better than my sauce thickened with only Parmesan, butter and water, and in my kitchen, taste wins.
I’m going to assume you already have shredded roast chicken on hand, since that was the challenge Anne laid out for me. I recommend adding chicken to individual portions and then stirring it all in. This way if you don’t use all the chicken you can make next week’s recipe with the leftovers.
My alfredo sauce recipe is based on this one at Chow.
- 1 pound spinach fettuccine
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 5 tbs butter
- 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- salt & fresh ground pepper
- zest of one very large or three small lemons
- a few tbs of chopped Italian flat-leafed parsley
- 5-7 good-sized cloves of garlic, bruised
- cooked chicken for the top
- Grate the Parmesan and zest the lemons. Add the cheese and the lemon to the same bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Bruise the garlic by peeling it and then smashing it with a small frying pan or other flat, heavy surface. You want the garlic to be beat up, but we’re trying to avoid small pieces. We’re going to fish the garlic out later and it needs to be easy to track down.
- Heat the butter, cream, and garlic in a skillet large enough to accommodate the pasta. Once the butter has melted, bring it up to a simmer and add 1/4 cup of the cheese and zest mixture and stir to combine. Fish out the garlic cloves and discard. Remove from heat until the pasta is ready. Add salt and grind in some pepper, about 3/4 tsp of each.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta as per package instructions. Fresh pasta just takes a couple of minutes, which dried pasta takes longer. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce, so cook it until only just softened. Reserve one cup of the pasta water before draining.
- Add the noodles to the sauce pan and bring up to low heat. Add about 2/3 cup of reserved pasta water and the rest of the Parmesan zest mixture. Toss well to combine sauce, pasta, and cheese.
- Add more water if necessary to get the perfect creamy consistency. Taste to adjust your pepper and salt, and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and sliced chicken.