Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Linguine Pesto with Italian Chicken Strips

Recipe modified by Gretchen Wilson – October 25, 2010
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published in Taste of Home’s weekly e-zine “Menu$aver Newsletter”.

On occasion, I’ll look for light recipes to make for lunch.  Unfortunately, there aren’t many of them out there.  This recipe wasn’t meant to be a lunch recipe.  It was meant to be a quick option for dinner; however, I think it would do much better as lunch fare.

My finished product:

Picture published with recipe:

© Taste of Home

Put aside the fact that I don’t have the ability to plate a dish as beautifully as Taste of Home – I mean look at the perfect positioning of those noodles! – my end result came really close to that of Taste of Home.  I used wheat pasta, which gives the dish a darker appearance, but other than that, I seemed to have nailed it.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessNADA – All you have to do is boil pasta.  Everything else is measured and added to the cooked noodles.  Save spilling bread crumbs all over your counter, you’re going to have nothing to clean up but a pasta pot and colander.

Start-to-Finish Time: UNDER 30 MINUTES – All you have to do is boil water and cook the pasta.  It truly is that simple.  Of course, on occasion, I’ll have a little too much water in my pot, but you can get away with minimal water since you are cooking only ½ of a package of pasta.

Prep Work: ALL FINGERS STILL HERE – This is another reason why I like this for a lunch dish.  It is a hearty meal but requires no chopping, slicing or grating.  Minimal cooking and then mix and eat.

Ease of Recipe: COOK IT IN MY SLEEP – I think boiling water and cooking pasta was one of the first things I learned how to do when I was a kid.  You know why?  Because that’s how you make Kraft Macaroni and cheese!

OverallNOT BAD – I made this for dinner and was disappointed.  I think the idea is that the heat from the pasta is supposed to heat up the chicken and corn, but it most definitely did not.  Cold chicken I can handle, but cold corn?  Ugh.  That being said, if I was looking for a quick lunch to make for friends, this could work.  I would definitely heat the chicken and corn before mixing with the pasta.

Recipe Information:
Time estimates are from the original publisher of the recipe, not the length of time it took me to create it.  Look for my comments below.  Nutritional Information is based on original recipe.  Any changes I make to reduce the caloric, fat, cholesterol or sodium content are not reflected in the Nutritional Information.

Prep/Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Nutritional Information (1½ cups of pasta)
  • Calories 539
  • Total Fat 23g (Saturated Fat 10g)
  • Cholesterol 63mg
  • Sodium 485mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 58g
  • Fiber 4g
  • Protein 29g

You can definitely make it in 20 minutes, but only if you pay attention to how much water you use.  Too much, and you could end up waiting 20 minutes to boil the water.  I was shocked to see the calorie count of this dish, but I leaned it out by using wheat pasta and reduced-fat cheddar cheese.  Another tip to lean the dish – reduce the amount served to 1 cup and serve with a salad chock full of fresh vegetables.  You can get a couple extra servings and have a wonderfully healthy meal.

Changes denoted by red text

8 ounces uncooked wheat linguine
1 package (6 ounces) ready-to-use grilled Italian chicken strips
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
¾ cup frozen corn, thawed
1 jar (3½ ounces) prepared pesto
¼ cup seasoned bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon pepper

Ingredient Notes:
Wheat Linguine
  • I used wheat pasta to cut down on the carbohydrate count lowering the calories and glycemic index of the dish.  Linguine (prounced lin-GWEE-nee) is thicker than spaghetti and thinner than fettuccine.
  • If you cannot find linguine, you can substitute fettuccine or spaghetti (which is easy to find in wheat).
  • Many an Italian has told me that wheat pasta is blasphemy.  Personally?  I can’t tell the difference.  However, the original recipe does call for traditional pasta, so feel free to use it in the event (a) you can’t find wheat penne or (b) you can’t bring yourself to eat the wheat.

Ready-to-Use Italian Chicken Strips – You can find these strips near the bacon or packaged lunch meat in your grocery store.  If you can’t find an Italian version, you can add a little basil and oregano to the chicken mixture.

Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese – To help thin-out the recipe, I used reduced-fat cheese.  Every little bit helps.  I would look for cheese that is finely shredded.  You can also use a medium cheddar cheese if you don’t like sharp.

Frozen Corn – Make sure your corn is completely thawed, or you will be eating very cold corn in your meal.  Trust me, it doesn’t taste very good.

Prepared Pesto – You can find this with the other pasta sauces in your grocery store, but you may have to look on the higher shelves for it and near the outer edges of the area.  Pesto is actually easy to create, but it can make a mess and you’ll need a food processor (blenders and mini-chops DO NOT do the job correctly).  Food Network, AllRecipes and MyRecipes have several different versions that use basil or parsley, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese, but for a quick meal, just buy the prepared.

Equipment Needed:
Pasta pot
Wooden spoon
Pasta tongs

Equipment Notes:
Pasta Tongs – Instead of a traditional pasta spoon, I have tongs that allow me to grab the pasta to serve.  You certainly don’t need to go out and buy this to make this dish.  It just makes it easier to toss the pasta.  Two large spoons can work if you don’t have something to use.

(1)  Cook linguine according to package directions; drain.

(2)  Add the chicken, cheese, corn, pesto, bread crumbs, red pepper flakes and pepper. Toss to coat.

Even though I read the recipe, I didn’t make the connection that you weren’t going to be heating the chicken and vegetables.  The dish had good taste, but the cold corn did nothing for me.  As I said before, if you want to try this dish, definitely heat up the chicken and corn before adding it to the pasta, or at least add the corn to the boiling pasta water for the last couple minutes.

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