Wonderfully aromatic, this creamy chicken pasta dish gets a flavor boost from an Italian “Soffritto”.
I put pasta on our table at least once a week. To me, very little is as satisfying as fresh or dried pasta coated with a great Italian ragu of any kind. So, I am always on the lookout for a new take on Pasta sauce. This recipe from Food and Wine Magazine qualifies in spades. Now the first time I made Silvia Baldini’s marvelous pasta dish, it took a good two hours to cook. And the results were well worth the time. But I couldn’t help thinking what a great candidate the dish is for the Instant Pot. Not only does that cut the recipe time by at least half, but the Instant Pot also makes this a great dish to serve family-style to friends. Everything just sits in the pot until you’re ready to cook the fresh Fettucine in all of about three minutes.
About that “Sofrito” or “Soffritto” in Italian.
While you may associate Sofritos with Latin cooking, the Italian version of “Soffritto” consists of onions, carrots, celery, and parsley. In French, the first three ingredients are called a “Mirepoix”. Shortcut number two: You can buy a pre-chopped version of Mirepoix in virtually any supermarket. Just add two tablespoons of chopped parsley. While the Soffritto gives a depth of flavor to every bite, some credit must go to the diced Pancetta whose drippings are used to cook the chicken. Now I am not suggesting such a thing, but if Pork isn’t on your diet, you can even eliminate that and you’ll still end up with a stellar dinner. Just toss a green salad. And I wouldn’t be averse to adding a nice crusty loaf of bread to the table.
I couldn’t help wondering, is this dish truly Italian?
Silvia Bardini certainly is! She was born and raised in Torino before moving to California at age 17. She now lives in Connecticut and devotes herself to food. She’s been on Food Network’s “Chopped” and competed on “Beat Bobby Flay”. Lately, she’s devoted herself to Chocolate Chip Cookies at Grace Farm Foods. (For more on Silvia go https://www.silviabaldini.com/.) Now back to my original question: When I was in Italy in November, my Italian sister, Sofia, introduced me to her go-to recipe resource: www.giallozafferano.it. It means “ Yellow Saffron” and it has over 1000 recipes with more added daily. It’s also the first website that spawned a print magazine as pictured here. When I requested recipes for “Ragu Bianco” or “White Sauce” in English, dozens of recipes appeared. “Bianco” could be made most often with Veal but also with Rabbit, Artichokes, Cinta Sinese (a breed of pig) but not one single recipe used Chicken. So today’s recipe isn’t authentic Italian. But my is it good! The recipe includes instructions for both the Dutch Oven version and the Instant Pot version. The only difference is the cooking time. After the recipe some other Pasta favorites.
Fettuccine with White Chicken Ragu
A wonderfully aromatic pasta sauce that gets its great flavor for both Pancetta and an Italian Soffritto of Onions, Celery, Carrots, and Parsley
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta or guanciale, finely chopped
- 2 medium garlic cloves
- 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1 1/2 cups Soffritto (Store Bought Mirepoix) or ½ cup each diced onion, carrot, and celery plus two tbsp. chopped parsley
- 6 tablespoons dry white wine
- 2 cups organic chicken stock
- 2 leek leaves (from 1 leek) or 2 scallions
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
- 1 cup frozen sweet peas, thawed
- 12 ounces uncooked dried fettuccine or 16 ounces fresh fettuccine
- 1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish.
- Step 1 Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium. Or use the Saute feature on your Instant Pot. Add pancetta. Cook, stirring often until the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a plate, reserving drippings. Add garlic to Dutch oven or Instant Pot. Increase heat in Dutch Oven to medium-high. Sprinkle chicken all over with salt and pepper. Working in batches if needed, add chicken, skin side down. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer chicken thighs to a plate. Reserve garlic and 2 tablespoons drippings. Discard remaining drippings. Add sofrito and wine. Bring to a simmer. Cook, stir and scrape up browned bits until mixture is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Return chicken in a snug single layer
- Step 2 Add stock, ensuring the chicken is barely covered. Return mixture to a simmer. While mixture comes to a simmer, bundle together leek leaves, rosemary sprigs, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf. Secure with kitchen twine, and add to the Dutch oven or Instant Pot. If using Dutch Oven, reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If using Instant Pot, set pressure for 15 minutes. At the end of 15 minutes allow to steam to fully escape.
- Step 3 Transfer chicken to a cutting board. Partially cover Dutch oven or Instant Pot and continue cooking on low/warm. Let chicken and sauce stand for 10 minutes. Skim and discard fat from sauce. Remove and discard garlic cloves and leek-herb bundle. Stir reserved pancetta into the sauce. Remove and discard skin and bones from chicken. Shred the chicken meat.
- Step 4 Stir cream into sauce. Cook over medium-high in the Dutch oven or set Instant Pot to Saute function. Stir occasionally, until sauce is reduced by nearly half and has slightly thickened 8 to 12 minutes. Stir peas and shredded chicken into sauce. Cook until peas are just tender, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
- Step 5 Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
- Step 6 Add pasta, Parmesan, butter, and lemon zest to the sauce. Stir to combine, adding splashes of the reserved cooking liquid as needed to form a creamy sauce. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve in large bowls.