Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lemon Herb Pasta with Chicken

My husband and I are about as different as you can get.

I like romance movies. He likes blow-up-everything-and-hopefully-there-will-be-lots-of-blood movies.

I love shopping (yes, even grocery shopping!). He considers it a form of torture. Or punishment.

I'm a little bit country. He's a little bit rock and roll.

I love pasta. He doesn't. Wait, what??

Really, who doesn't love pasta? My husband, that's who! Seriously, if I would've known this little fact before we were married... I'm just kidding. But you don't mess with me and my pasta! Usually when I make a pot of spaghetti or homemade macaroni and cheese, I get "the look" and it is usually followed with empty threats of running to the nearest burger joint to get dinner. I say "empty threats" because he knows if he did that he'd be in trouble. But that's true love, right? Eating my pasta even though he doesn't want to? *sigh*

Anyway, last weekend my husband Bryan and I went with my sister-in-law Lindsay and my brother-in-law Dave to Friday Harbor. When Lindsay told me she was making pasta for dinner, I was skeptical because I knew I wanted it, but I didn't want Bryan to eat something he wasn't excited about. It was vacation and I was feeling nice. But Lindsay did something magical, or at least did something I haven't been able to do. She made a pasta dish that not only did Bryan like, he said something that I've waited years to hear - he told her he'd actually go to a restaurant and buy her pasta dish.

So here is the pasta dish that changed my world. Not only did my husband love it, but my boys did too. In fact, I didn't even have to threaten them to eat dinner (something that happens almost every night at the table). They ate it up, and for once I ate in peace. It's a win-win all around.
The players: aren't they pretty? I do have to admit that the parmesan cheese is missing from the picture. I'm currently not eating dairy (my baby has a sensitivity) so I omitted the parmesan cheese from the recipe, and thought it was silly to buy the cheese for the photo op. I also switched the butter to margarine - which was fine, but trust me, the butter is better! But in a pinch you can use margarine.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, basil, and oregano. I used a garlic press for the garlic instead of hand mincing them because I wanted them small. If you are a crazy professional mincer, then by all means, mince away. In the mean time, I'll be garlic-pressing. To zest the lemon you can use a microplane (shown above) or the small side of a cheese grater. Zest only the yellow parts - the white part gets bitter. And yes, I know, my thumb bends weird.
While your butter sauce is cooking, cook your chicken all the way through and slice into bite size pieces. Add the chicken to your sauce and let it cook in the sauce for a few minutes. This allows the chicken to soak up all the flavors and makes it oh-so-tasty. You could also use leftover chicken from a rotisserie or from chicken you have hanging out in your fridge. (C'mon, you know you have a chicken just hanging out, right?)
Next add the green onions, parsley, and salt and pepper. I use my kitchen shears (or whatever scissors are lying around) to cut my green onions. It's fast and easy. I also use my kitchen shears to cut lettuce and yucky parts off of meat (so I don't have to actually manhandle the meat with my bare hands), cut up pancakes and pizza for my kids, and about any other thing that I can find instead of using knives. Call me a genius. Call me lazy. Whatever.
Next add the lemon juice. Squeeze the lemon facing up so that the seeds don't fall in your sauce. If you find that your lemon is hard, you can zap it in the microwave for a few seconds to release the juices. Also, before you cut it, you can roll it back and forth really hard on your table to soften it up. Stir the lemon juice in. This is where I taste the sauce to see if I need to add more lemon, salt, or whatever. I always buy an extra lemon just in case I want to add more. Stir in the hot pasta (and here is where you would add the parmesan cheese too). Serve hot - although it's just as super tasty warm and also cold as leftovers the next day.

Lemon Herb Pasta with Chicken

1/2 C. butter (1 stick)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2-6 large cloves of garlic, finely minced or pressed (I used four, Lindsay uses two or three)
1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes (optional, I didn't use it. Most of my kids are anti-spicy)
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 fresh lemon (for juicing)
2 whole green onions, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4. C. flat leaf parsley or 2 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 C. shredded parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1 to 1 1/2 pounds chicken, seasoned to your liking, cooked, and sliced to bite size pieces
1 16oz. box of pasta (I used penne, but you can use whatever you have: rotini, gemelli, linguini, etc. You won't use the whole box, but most of it. I cook it all up and use the leftover pasta for lunch the next day with tomato sauce.)

Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once melted, add garlic, basil, and oregano. Add cooked chicken, letting it soak up some of the butter sauce (that is the best part!). Then add parsley, green onions, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in lemon zest and cook for several seconds, then toss with hot pasta and parmesan cheese. Squeeze the lemon (both halves) over the pasta. Serve at once with or without extra shredded cheese (but really, who doesn't love extra cheese!!) If you find you need to "stretch" your sauce to cover more pasta (like I did because I have a hungry husband and hungry kids) you can drizzle in some olive oil and add a little more lemon juice. Enjoy!

** I really love to wilt a bag of spinach or salad savoy into my pasta. Just add it to the chicken before you add the pasta to the pan. Let it wilt and then add your pasta. My picky kids eat it up because the spinach tastes like lemony garlic goodness!


  1. I remember walking into your house after you made this and it smelled sooo good. I'm totally making this next week!

  2. One of my all time favorites recipes!!

  3. Carissa sent me here, and I can't wait to try this - it looks absolutely delish! Do you add the lemon zest when you add the juice? Thanks!

  4. Sorry! I need to fix the recipe. I add the zest right before the chicken so that it can infuse in the butter and then into the chicken. But really you can add it in at any time. And you can always add more zest or lemon juice at the end if you want more lemon flavor. Good luck!