RUSTIC CHICKEN PASTA BAKE
This recipe is likely to become a family favourite. I prefer to use up left-over chicken from a previous roast chicken dinner for extra ease. My Creole marinade brings a wonderful warmth and supercharges the chicken to the next level.
I learned about using up leftovers from my mother, and she was an expert. Her endless creativity on a pasta bake theme had us devouring huge portions of it, especially in our household of five fast-growing children. This skill also served me well when having to make staff meals for starving chefs in restaurants. I use a classic Italian tomato ragu sauce my recipe you'll find from my eggplant parmigiana dish.
Chef Dylan’s tip: To get the mushrooms to really sing and caramelise, the trick is to let the butter froth up and then place the mushrooms in one by one and to not overcrowd the pan, then have patience. Do not disturb them. Let the water come out and sizzle away; this is to avoid the dreaded soggy mushrooms. They get soggy because mushrooms have high water content. You really need to cook one side very well; this will be a game-changer so cook them like this every time you cook mushrooms and you will notice a huge difference, not only in the flavour but the texture as well.
Did you know?
When it comes to mushrooms, a whopping 50 per cent are inedible. They are tough, woody, not so good to eat like eating bark; think of the ones you see growing from dead logs in the rainforest.
25 % “edible, but not incredible” (taste like dirt)
20 % will make you sick or hallucinate (mild indigestion, nausea, strange visions or 3-5 day sickness at most)
4 % will be tasty to superb (why we love cooking and eating mushrooms)
1 % can kill you (dead like proper dead, brown bread dead.)
The edible mushroom species have been found in association with 13,000 year old ruins in Chile, one example of just how long at least we’ve been eating mushrooms. There are some examples from China around 300BC, as Asian cuisine has long relied on beech mushrooms, shiitakes, and enokis to add umami to its dishes. The ancient Romans and Greeks, often the elite, used mushrooms for recipes to impress guests. But because of the limited knowledge of safe varieties, food tasters were employed by Roman Emperors to ensure that mushrooms were safe to eat. What a job! Fortunately, times have progressed and we now have access to an excellent variety of quality mushrooms.
I think mushrooms and tomato are a perfect combo. If you can grow some cherry tomatoes in the garden of on your balcony then even better. Mytomato ragu recipe will just get easier and easier for you to master, as you make it again and again. It’s a useful sauce to have in your repertoire as it is the base for a surfeit of dishes, especially Italian. There are not too many humans on the planet who will say no to a home cooked cheesy chicken pasta bake.
PREP TIME: 15 mins
COOKING TIME: 30-40 mins
3 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2-6 cherry tomatoes
2 tbs tomato paste
2 x 400g canned crushed tomatoes
2 tbps brown sugar
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp of CREOLE
1 tsp salt (if needed)
1/2 cooked chicken torn into rough threads or chunks about 3cm long
150g button mushrooms sliced 1cm thick (optional)
100g pizza or three cheese mix
100g rigatoni pasta (or choose an alternative)
Fresh garden herbs
Heat a small to a medium-sized fry pan on medium, add the oil and fry the onion in the oil until fragrant. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Return pan to the stove and heat to medium. Add 1tbs of olive oil and 2tbs of butter. As it froths and bubbles add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 mins.
Add garlic and turn mushrooms over one by one, cook for 1min.
Add onions back in.
Add tomato paste and cook out stirring for a minute.
Add brown sugar and vinegar.
Add tomato and toss to combine or stir in.
Simmer on very low until the sauce has reduced slightly (about 8 mins).
Meanwhile, boil pasta for 12-13 mins.
While that’s happening, heat a large frypan to high and add oil then the chicken pieces. Fry until crispy on one side for 5-6 mins.
Add 2tbs of CREOLE and toss/stir to combine. Add the pasta sauce to the frypan and stir well.
Drain pasta and add to the pan and combine well.
Place the pasta from the pan into a medium-sized baking dish.
Sprinkle cheese on top and scatter some cherry tomatoes and herbs (optional)
Cook for 8-10 mins or until the cheese has melted and is nice and golden.
Add a sprinkle of fresh garden herbs. Serve with a nice glass of red.