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Chicken and Pasta with Asparagus and Lemon

 
 
 
Be sure to use low-sodium chicken broth in this recipe; regular chicken broth will make the dish extremely salty.
 
4 Tbs    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter  
1 lb    boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 large breasts), trimmed and sliced thin  
1   leek , white and light green parts only, minced and rinsed thoroughly  
  Salt  
6   medium garlic cloves , minced and pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)  
2 tsp    minced fresh thyme leaves  
2 tsp    unbleached all-purpose flour  
2 cups    low-sodium chicken broth  
1 cup    dry white wine  
1 lb    asparagus (about 1 bunch), tough ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths  
8 oz    penne pasta or ziti (about 2 1/2 cups)  
2 oz    grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup), plus more tor serving  
2 tsp    grated zest and 1/4 cup juice from 1 lemon  
2 Tbs    shredded fresh basil leaves  
  Ground black pepper  
 
1 Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for the pasta.
2 Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until beginning to brown. Add the chicken, break up any clumps, and cook without stirring until beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Stir the chicken and continue to cook until almost cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a medium bowl, cover with foil, and set aside.
3 Add 1 tablespoon more of the butter, the leek, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the skillet and cook over high heat until browned on the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, and flour and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth and wine, bring to a simmer, and cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened slightly and reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 15 minutes.
4 Meanwhile, stir 1 tablespoon salt and the asparagus into the boiling water and cook, stirring often, until the asparagus are crisp-tender, about 1 minute (do not overcook). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
5 Return the water to a boil, stir in the pasta, and cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Return the chicken to the skillet along with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, the Parmesan, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute.
6 Pour the chicken and sauce mixture over the pasta and add the asparagus and basil. Toss gently to combine, adding the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve, passing additional Parmesan separately.
 
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