First of all, HAPPY 2014, you little minxes!
So sorry to be AWOL lately. The holidays were, you know, the holidays (booked my Christmas Boycott to Maui trip already for this coming year, so bye-bye, family/suckers!). Then I did a ridiculous cleanse which included no alcohol and a lot of crying. And now I’m smack-dab in the middle of pilot season which is the busiest time of year for us actors with dozens of meetings and auditions and multiple personality disorders. My brain is fried. And it’s not even February yet.
So when brains are fried, and you’ve been running around in the cold in a skimpy blouse that says “hipster new mom lawyer who’s actually an ex-con” (living the dream), what better thing to come home to than a good bowl of comfort food? My favorite kind of comfort food is something cheesy and loaded with carbs, and I’m almost always tempted to pick up take-out from my tried-and-true pasta place here in Vancouver. But it being skimpy top season, sometimes it’s best to recreate something gluttonous at home, so you can at least fool yourself into thinking it’s better for you. Whatever. The other bonus is you can make extra and keep eating if that audition didn’t go so well. No one will judge you, darling.
I should mention that this is my take on a dish from Cafe Luxy, an oldie but a goodie in Vancouver’s West End. Luxy isn’t about a lot of frills, but their pasta portions are huge, the service is friendly, and it’s cheap and totally satisfying. Their Tortellini Fiorentina is insanely good, as is their lasagna, but my pasta of choice is the Penne Ricardo– gorgonzola, spinach, and grilled chicken in a light rose sauce. It’s stupid good. And because I’m a genius, I’ve found a way to replicate it at home. The choice is yours in terms of what sorta noodle tickles your fancy, but I like penne with this one, and I’m rather privy to a quinoa pasta, or even a whole grain variety. Because it’s better for you, and it tricks me into thinking what I’m eating is a “light dinner”. I don’t do salad as a meal. I will not. But that’s another rant, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been down that dark little barren road before. So I give you:
PENNE RICARDO ALA JBS
1 box of penne of your choice (don’t pull a fast one on me and get spaghetti. The sauce sticks to penne better, so stop getting creative, will ya?)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced (texture is better)
a bag of spinach leaves, or roughly 3 large handfuls
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup gorgonzola cheese, diced
1 generous handful of parmigiano reggiano cheese for topping
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta with a lid.
Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Slice the chicken into bite sized chunks, season with salt and pepper. Pour 1 tbsp of olive oil into the pan and saute the chicken until browned, about five minutes. Remove from the pan and add another tbsp of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic, and let that cook for a minute. Then add the mushrooms and cook until the onion is translucent and the mushrooms are soft. Season with salt and pepper, and then add the chicken stock, scraping up the bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and a little more salt and pepper, and bring the sauce up to a bubble. Reduce the heat to medium and let the liquid reduce into about half the amount.
While this is happening, throw in a generous pinch of salt into your boiling water and cook the pasta a couple of minutes shy according to the package directions. Slowly add the spinach to the tomato sauce in handfuls, and season again with a little salt and pepper. Once it wilts down into the sauce, turn the heat down to low and add the chicken back in. Slowly stir in the gorgonzola until it melts into the sauce. Add the pasta into the sauce with a ladle of cooking water if the sauce seems a little too thick. Let it cook in the sauce for a couple of minutes. Serve the pasta into shallow bowls topped with a generous handful of parmigiano reggiano. Holy moly.
SERVES 4 (ish.. all depends on how much comforting you need, little baby.)