Chicken in Lemon Cream with Penne

My best friend Melissa had a gorgeous baby girl, Ruby Lyn, on December 8. I was there for the birth and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life — beautiful, heart-wrenching, crazy and happy in the span of an insane 22 hours of labor. What can I say — Melissa is a champ! And Ruby is just perfect.

This was the first meal I made for Melissa after the birth: Chicken in Lemon Cream with Penne. My goal was to avoid onions (quite hard to do, actually), include some protein and have it be a pretty simple meal so I could spend more time loving on Ruby than cooking.

The recipe is courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis, from her Everyday Pasta cookbook. It’s so simple, but the sauce, a combination of lemon zest, cream and a hit of spice from cayenne pepper, is full of flavor. If you think lemon on pasta is weird, you have to give this a try. The acidity you typically get from tomato sauce is transformed in the lemon cream, and it’s lighter and more refreshing. The hit of more lemon juice and a sprinkling of parsley at the end add even more brightness.

This is so simple I don’t even have any tips! I served it with a simple green salad. Have at it!

Chicken in Lemon Cream with Penne

Ingredients

  • 1 lb penne pasta (or substitute your favorite type of pasta or spaghetti)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts , diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de provence
  • 1 pinch salt , plus
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season the cubed chicken with herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set aside. Pour off excess oil from pan. Add the chicken broth to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, scraping up any bits with a wooden spoon. Add the cream, lemon zest, and cayenne. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the pasta, chicken, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, chopped parsley, and lemon juice. Toss to coat the pasta and chicken with the sauce and serve.

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