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WanderSups: The perfect pasta dish for spring

“Here’s the thing: food doesn’t always have to be fancy and complicated. And so I refer back to my golden rule: ‘Would Nigella do it?’ You bet she would.” To celebrate the arrival of sunnier days, Hannah Gregory shares a pasta dish filled with Mediterranean flavours

Casarecce pasta - library image
Casarecce pasta - library image

Spring is springing people, you heard it here first. And with it, the transition from steaming bowls of soups and stews and unctuous sauces to lighter plates - medleys of vegetables, warm salads and fish (or chicken) suppers.

I always feel a surefire way to acknowledge the changing of the seasons is when your pasta dishes morph from comforting bowls of mac and cheese and the like to more Mediterranean flavours. It’s a sort of friendly goodbye and thank you to those heavy dishes that got you through the winter months, wrapping you in layers of warmth, keeping hands cosy as they cup bowls as you curl into the sofa on a Sunday afternoon, and a welcoming hello of what is to come, may we be so bold to start thinking about al fresco suppers, holidays to the Med, and crisp, chilled white wine to wash everything down.

This dish is the transition dish between the two, the gap bridger so to speak. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting we start eating chilled gazpachos and bowls of leaves just yet. This dish involves a nutty pesto, Mediterranean veg and juicy marinated chicken boob. It’s super-simple and super-quick, so is the perfect midweek meal. It’s also delicious cold - yes, I know I said I wouldn’t go into cold food just yet, but here we are - so makes a perfect leftover lunch.

You can use any dried pasta (you could even make fresh if you’re that way inclined), but casarecce works particularly well as it grips the pesto in all its nooks and crannies.

A little moment of honesty - I had a bit of guilt when I decided to write up this dish. Old demons creeped in - thoughts of ‘It’s not good enough’, ‘It’s too boring for a magazine’ - but here’s the thing: food doesn’t always have to be fancy and complicated. Yes, February’s column was about a lobster pie - life’s about balance ok! And so I refer back to my golden rule: “Would Nigella do it?” You bet she would.

Food is about good ingredients, bringing people together and not always busting your ass in making something to bring those people together. And this dish does that: 30 minutes max to cook (not even), serve it in a big ol’ bowl with a big ol’ serving spoon and let everyone dig in.

Casarecce Con Pollo with Hazelnut Pesto

Serves: 4

Sometimes a swift and simple pasta dish is perfection, writes Hannah Gregory of WanderSups (62692015)
Sometimes a swift and simple pasta dish is perfection, writes Hannah Gregory of WanderSups (62692015)

What you need :

● 500g of casarecce (or other dried pasta)

● 2 chicken breasts

● 1 lemon

● 60ml extra virgin olive oil

● Salt and pepper

● 1 clove garlic

● 1 large courgette

● 1 jar sundried tomatoes

● 1 jar artichokes

● 2 tablespoons capers

For the pesto :

● Big handful basil (approx. 80g)

● 50g blanched hazelnuts

● 50g freshly grated parmesan

● 1 clove garlic minced

● 150ml extra virgin olive oil

How you do it :

1. To make the marinade for your chicken, zest and juice the lemon into a bowl with the olive oil, mince in a clove of garlic, season with salt and pepper.

2. Dice the chicken into bite-size pieces and toss in the marinade and set aside. If you have time to do this overnight or for the best part of a day then do it; if not, 30 minutes is fine.

3. Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan until golden brown.

4. Chop the basil, including the stalks.

5. Put the chopped basil and toasted hazelnuts in a blender along with the parmesan, oil, garlic and a good crack of black pepper. Blitz until your desired consistency - if too dry/wet, add more olive oil/parmesan.

6. When ready to cook, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions.

7. Drain the sundried tomatoes, reserving the oil.

8. Add one tablespoon of the sundried tomato oil to a large pan, heat until shimmering and then throw in the chicken pieces and fry until golden and cooked through.

9. Slice the courgette and add to the pan with the chicken for the last couple of minutes of its cooking time.

10. Slice the sundried tomatoes and artichokes.

11. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add to the pan with the chicken and courgettes and half a ladle of the cooking water.

12. Stir through the pesto, tomatoes, artichokes and capers, making sure everything is combined.

13. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, more black pepper and a good whack of fresh parmesan.

A former BBC MasterChef quarter finalist, Hannah hosts WanderSups supper clubs, “serving meals created with love, inspired by journeys around the world, dished up on home turf”. Her ethos is simple - have fun, enjoy it, make it an occasion. To find out more follow @WanderSups or visit wandersups.com.

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