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Spaghetti with Chicken and Broccoli   printer-friendly
By Charlie Burke

I have not seen this combination in Italy, but it is consistent with Italians’ eating
habits because in this preparation the amount of chicken is relatively small
compared to main course protein portions we usually serve. Also, fresh
vegetables play at least an equal role in this pasta, creating a light, healthy meal,
full of flavor and color.

We are learning the benefits of moving away from large portions of meat protein,
while adding whole grains, complex carbohydrates and vegetables to vary our
diets.*

A good quality whole wheat pasta goes well with this robust sauce and a
moderate amount of extra virgin olive oil ties everything together. Just as the
pasta should be served al dente, so should the vegetables be cooked just past
crispness to add their texture to the plate.

Four servings:

12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 ½-2 inch pieces
1 large head of broccoli, soaked and cut into medium sized pieces with stems
sliced ¼ inch thick
1 large red pepper, seeded and sliced thin, lengthwise
1 large shallot or small onion, diced
4 medium cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups chicken stock, homemade or low sodium if purchased
½ cup dry white wine
Salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
12 ounces thin spaghetti, preferably whole wheat

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook the
broccoli until crisp/tender (approximately 5 minutes). Remove the broccoli with
a spider or large slotted spoon, place it into a colander and rinse it with cold
water to halt cooking.

Return the pot to a boil and cook the pasta until al  dente, usually at least two
minutes shorter than the instructions on the box. Drain the pasta.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add half the olive oil. Lightly
season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add them to the sauté pan
once the oil is shimmering. Sauté the pieces, stirring, until just done – they will
not have time to brown. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Add the remaining oil and reduce the heat to medium. Add the shallot, pepper,
garlic and pepper flakes and sauté until the pepper and onion are slightly
softened. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium-high and reduce the wine
by two thirds, and then add the chicken stock. Reduce the stock by half and then
add the chicken and their juices and pasta to the pan, stirring and turning to
thoroughly coat the pasta. Add salt and ground pepper to taste and serve on
warm plates, topped with the Parmesan.

There are important reasons to reduce the meat protein in our diets: more
vegetables, nuts and grains decrease risks of cancer and heart disease, and the
amount of energy used in feeding, processing and transporting meat has
environmental consequences, as outlined in Mark Bittman’s bestselling book
“Food Matters” (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2009). Pasta dishes make it easy to
decrease the meat protein and to add flavor and texture with vegetables, nuts and
spices.

We have switched to whole wheat pasta in dishes with assertive sauces,
reserving semolina pastas only for light dishes. Recently leading manufacturers
have introduced lines of whole wheat pastas with much improved texture and
flavor so it is easy to make the switch.

*The finest and most lucid book on nutrition, “Eat, Drink and be Healthy, the
Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating” (Free Press, a Division of
Simon & Schuster, New York, 2001, 2005),   written by Walter Willett, MD,
presents a new and scientifically sound food pyramid. I consider it a must for
understanding the food we eat and have bought if for all my family members and
recommended it to countless patients in my previous life.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm to
Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along with
his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill
Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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Spaghetti with Chicken and Brocolli, Photo by Charlie Burke
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