Lasagnette alla cacciatora col pollo (Pasta Cacciatore)

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It may come as a surprise to non-Italians, but if you ask the average Italian what they think of pasta and chicken, you’re likely to get a negative reaction. A very negative one in fact. That’s certainly the view among my Italian acquaintances. To them, a dish like Chicken Alfredo is an utter abomination, yet another example of foreigners butchering their beloved cuisine. And in all the years I lived in Italy, I didn’t come across the combination, not even once.

So I always assumed that Italian cookery simply didn’t have any pasta and chicken dishes. That assumption was borne out in Bugialli on Pasta, Giuiliano Bugialli’s extensive survey on Italian pasta dishes, where he says that in Italian cookery “there do not seem to be chicken sauces [for pasta] analogous to meat, duck or rabbit sauces”.

The exception that proves the rule…

So imagine my surprise when I saw this video from the fabulous Pasta Grannies YouTube channel. It features a pasta sauce from Le Marche made with—you guessed it—chicken. But not exactly in the way you might imagine: scraps from a chicken (feet, head, neck, etc.) are simmered in tomato and aromatic vegetables to lend their flavor, then discarded. In other words, the sauce is flavored with chicken but has no actual chicken in it. But nonetheless, it seemed to be the proverbial exception that proved the rule.

My curiosity piqued, I dug deeper. Searching through my cookbook collection and online Italian sourced recipes, I found that, though few and far between, Italian pasta and chicken dishes do exist.

For example, it turns out, pace Bugialli, that the marchigiani also make a traditional ragù di pollo, prepared much in the same way as a bolognese ragù but with minced chicken meat rather than the usual beef and pork. The cookbook of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina includes a recipe for a ragù from Emilia-Romagna that calls for minced chicken breast along with pork and veal (and no beef). Jeanne Caròla Francesconi, in her iconic work La cucina napoletana, includes a recipe from the monzù tradition combining pasta with boiled beef and chicken. Bugialli himself includes a dish from Basilicata in Bugialli on Pasta where chicken pieces are oven roasted and served with a pasta dressed with a bell pepper sauce.

And these days you’ll find a fair number of “creative” pasta and chicken recipes from Italian food bloggers and even some established websites. So perhaps the taboo around this combination is fading?

Today’s recipe

And then there’s the recipe I want to share with you today, lasagnette alla cacciatora col pollo, or Pasta Cacciatore, which I found in my trusty copy of Il Talismano della felicità by Ana Boni. Back in the day, the Talismano was a fixture in Italian households, playing a role similar to that once played by The Joy of Cooking in the US or Mrs Beeton in the UK. If one of the most iconic Italian cookbooks ever includes it, you know that, however unusual, this recipe is 100% Italian.

Here, a version of chicken alla cacciatora made with extra abundant sauce enhanced with some pancetta or guanciale is paired with lasagnette, an extra-wide ribbon shaped fresh egg pasta. The sauce is used to dress the pasta, then the chicken pieces are served on top of the pasta, making for a one-dish meal or piatto unico.

I should have known better about pasta and chicken. One thing I’ve learned over a lifetime of eating, cooking and studying Italian food is, you should never say never when when it comes to this cuisine. Italian cookery is simply so vast and varied that it’s a fool’s errand to try to make any sweeping generalizations about it. There’ll always be those exceptions like this Pasta Cacciatore out there, popping up at different times and places.

And anyway, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. And if you ask me, this recipe really works. That said, my Italian friends are right about one thing: Chicken Alfredo really is an abomination…

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 500g (1 lb) lasagnette (or similar fresh pasta—see Notes)

For the sauce:

  • 1 chicken, preferably free-range, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, slightly crushed and peeled
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) pancetta or guanciale, cut into strips
  • 1 kilo (2 lbs) fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 1 large can of peeled tomatoes, run through a food mill
  • White wine
  • Butter and olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

To finish the dish:

  • Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 1-2 sprigs of fresh parsley, finely minced
  • 1 sprig of fresh basil, finely minced (optional)

Directions

In a large sauté pan or braiser over gentle head, melt a good nob of butter in olive oil. Add the chopped onion and garlic, and let sauté gently until the onion is soft and translucent.

Now add the pancetta or guanciale, along with the chicken pieces. Raise the heat a bit and let the guanciale and chicken brown lightly on all sides, taking care to regulate the heat so the onion and garlic don’t burn. Season with salt and pepper as you go.

Remove the garlic and add a good splash of wine. Let it evaporate, turning the chicken in the wine so it is coated all over.

When the wine has evaporated, add the tomato. Cover (leaving the lid slightly ajar to allow for reduction) and let braise over moderate heat for about 30 minutes, turning the chicken from time to time, until the chicken is tender and tomato has thickened into a saucy consistency. Add water as needed if the sauce gets too thick.

Meanwhile, if you’re making your own lasagnette, prepare fresh egg pasta dough following the instructions in this post, roll the dough out into thin sheets, then cut the sheets into ribbons 3 cm (1 inch) wide. Otherwise, you can use a store-bought ribbon pasta. (See Notes below for details.)

Boil your pasta al dente and transfer it to a serving bowl. Mix with enough of the sauce to coat it well and sprinkle generously with grated parmgiano-reggiano. Place the chicken pieces on top and sprinkle with minced parsley (and basil if using).

Serve your Pasta Cacciatore together with more grated parmigiano-reggiano and any remaining sauce on the side.

Pasta Cacciatore (Lasagnette alla cacciatora col pollo)

Notes

Lasagnette, as you might have guessed, means “little lasagna”. It’s a kind of extra wide ribbon pasta, sometimes with wavy edges and sometimes not. You can use lasagnette in baked pasta dishes like regular lasagna or, as here, enjoy them boiled and dressed with a sauce.

Although probably best known as a commercial dry pasta made with durum wheat flour, Boni’s recipe calls for making your own lasagnette with fresh egg pasta using 00 flour, cut into ribbons 3 cm (or about 1 inch) wide, which is far narrower than commercial lasagnette, which are usually about 7-10 cm wide.

I think it’s worth making your own, since there is nothing quite like it available commercially. See our post on making homemade fresh egg pasta for details. A lot of folks find the thought of making their own pasta intimidating. You shouldn’t be. It’s really not hard once you get the hang of it.

That said, if you don’t want to bother making your own pasta, you could prepare your Pasta Cacciatore with store-bought pappardelle, which is probably the closest thing to Boni’s lasagnette you can buy. Pappardelle are another wide ribbon pasta, albeit typically only about half as wide as Boni’s lasagnette. If you can’t source pappardelle, you could opt for more conventional (and even narrower) ribbon pastas such as tagliatelle or fettuccine. And although it’s obviously not “DOC“, I could even see using wide egg noodles of the German or American variety, about the right width but much shorter than lasagnette.

Most pasta and chicken recipes I’ve seen do call for fresh egg pasta. Although it’s hard to articulate exactly why, this makes complete intuitive sense to me.

Pasta Cacciatore (Lasagnette alla cacciatora col pollo)
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Lasagnette alla cacciatora col pollo (Pasta Cacciatore)

A wide ribbon pasta called "lasagnette" paired with Chicken Cacciatore
Course Primo
Cuisine Italian
Keyword chicken, pasta
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 500g 1 lb lasagnette  or similar fresh pasta

For the sauce

  • 1 chicken preferably free-range, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic slightly crushed and peeled
  • 100g 3-1/2 oz pancetta or guanciale cut into strips
  • 1 kilo 2 lbs fresh tomatoes peeled, seeded and chopped OR
  • 1 large can peeled tomatoes run through a food mill
  • White wine
  • Butter and olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

To finish the dish

  • freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh parsley finely minced
  • 1 sprig basil optional

Instructions

  • In a large sauté pan or braiser over gentle head, melt a good nob of butter in olive oil. Add the chopped onion and garlic, and let sauté gently until the onion is soft and translucent. 
  • Now add the pancetta or guanciale, along with the chicken pieces. Raise the heat a bit and let the guanciale and chicken brown lightly on all sides, taking care to regulate the heat so the onion and garlic don't burn. Season with salt and pepper as you go. 
  • Remove the garlic and add a good splash of wine. Let it evaporate, turning the chicken in the wine so it is coated all over. 
  • When the wine has evaporated, add the tomato. Cover (leaving the lid slightly ajar to allow for reduction) and let braise over moderate heat for about 30 minutes, turning the chicken from time to time, until the chicken is tender and tomato has thickened into a saucy consistency. Add water as needed if the sauce gets too thick. 
  • Meanwhile, if you're making your own lasagnette, prepare fresh egg pasta dough, roll the dough out into thin sheets, then cut the sheets into ribbons 3 cm (1 inch) wide. Otherwise, you can use a store-bought ribbon pasta.
  • Meanwhile, boil your pasta al dente and transfer it to a serving bowl. Mix with enough of the sauce to coat it well and sprinkle generously with grated parmgiano-reggiano. Place the chicken pieces on top and sprinkle with minced parsley (and basil if using).
  • Serve your Pasta Cacciatore together with more grated parmigiano-reggiano and any remaining sauce on the side. 

Notes

For details on making fresh egg pasta, see our post on How to Make Homemade Fresh Egg Pasta.

The post Lasagnette alla cacciatora col pollo (Pasta Cacciatore) appeared first on Memorie di Angelina.

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