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Name My Pasta and Win a Great Cookbook! (Chicken Pasta Alfresco)


One of the most enjoyable aspects of cooking for me is playing around with different ingredients and creating a new dish that I really, really like. I always feel such a sense of accomplishment when I’ve done this. Last Tuesday, I was just coming off of the June Daring Bakers challenge [1]and my weekly Tuesdays with Dorie assignment [2]and I was wiped! My dislocated elbow was throbbing so badly, I thought it would fall off. The pain must have dulled my other senses, because I drove home from the office and right past the grocery store. I didn’t even notice it as I whizzed by. It wasn’t until after I was home and had already changed into some comfy pajamas that I remembered I hadn’t planned anything for dinner. Since the natives were beginning to get restless, I raided my fridge to see what I could come up with.
I found a container of bocconcini [3], which are mini mozzarellas packed in water, some mushrooms, a peaked-looking shallot and a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I rooted around some more and dug out a small container of pesto sauce too. I also had a basket of beautiful ripe Campari tomatoes on the counter and a small jar of kalamata olives in the pantry.

I chopped up the tomatoes and tossed them together with the mozzarella, garlic, fresh basil, olives and olive oil for a nice Caprese salad. I decided to use the rest of my ingredients to make a sauce for some pasta, so I cut up the chicken and sauteed it with the shallot and mushrooms. Then, just for good measure, I mixed in the pesto sauce.

Now, I don’t know exactly how it happened or why, but after I drained the pasta, it somehow found its way into the bowl with the Caprese salad. Ooops! I don’t even remember doing it! I told you I was really tired. Maybe I blacked out for a minute. Maybe I had a mini-stroke. Maybe, I had a few deviant cells lurking in my brain and they decided to screw around with me. I don’t know, but at that point, it seemed like the only logical thing left to do was to dump the chicken mix in there too. So I did. And you know what? It was good. In fact, it was more than good. It was great!
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Strangely enough, even though they were intended to be two different dishes, all of the ingredients of each worked brilliantly together. The sweet and juicy of the tomatoes, the spicy of the pesto and the salty of the olives all blended with each other and melded into one helluva pasta sauce! One taste was all it took to know that I needed to post about it.

As I tried to write out the recipe for my accidental success, I realized that I had no idea what to call it. There were too many different components to the dish! I toyed with a few different names, but nothing sounded right. So, dear readers, I bring it to you. Please! Help me give my poor pasta a name!

Read through my recipe, look at the pictures and let your creative juices flow! Leave your suggestions of what to name this dish in the comments section of this post by next Thursday, July 17 at midnight EDT. My esteemed panel of judges and I will go through all of your submissions and choose the name that we feel captures the personality of the dish best.


The person with the winning submission will win a copy of Mario Batali’s [6]fab new cookbook, Italian Grill [7]. Italian Grill is the ultimate resource on Italian grilling and features over eighty terrific recipes for appetizers, pizza and flatbreads, fish and shellfish, poultry, meat, and vegetables. It’s the must-have cookbook of the season!

So, what are you waiting for? Put on your thinking caps, turn on your imaginations and……


Name My Pasta!!!

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No Name Pasta

1 lb short pasta of your choice (I used penne.)
4 medium-sized tomatoes, roughly chopped or one pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 12-ounce container bocconcini
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Small handful of fresh basil, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pint mushrooms, sliced
1 7-ounce container pesto sauce or equivalent of homemade pesto
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Romano cheese for topping

Bring a large pot of water to boil. When boiling, cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, bocconcini, olives, garlic, basil and 1/4 cup olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. When pasta is cooked, add it to the bowl, toss and set aside.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add diced shallot and chicken and saute until chicken is lightly browned. Add mushrooms and continue to saute until everything is cooked through.

Remove from heat and stir in pesto sauce. Add to bowl with tomatoes, bocconcini and pasta. Mix well and top with grated cheese.