This simple pasta dish transforms a deli-roasted chicken (which on top of being conveniently cooked is usually more inexpensive than an uncooked one) into a full meal in as much time as it takes to cook the noodles. Add a salad of bagged baby greens to round it out. For a sweet finish, try the trifle-like Eton mess, a classic British dessert invented at the illustrious boys’ school in Eton, UK. It’s easy to assemble the crumbled meringues, macerated berries and whipped cream.
1/2 lb penne, rotini or other small pasta shape
10 asparagus stalks, cut into
olive or canola oil, for cooking
2 leeks, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (white part only)
1 tsp (5 ml) grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) 18% coffee cream or half & half
2 cups (500 ml) chopped roasted chicken
1/3 cup (85 ml) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
3 cups (750 ml) fresh mixed berries, such as raspberries, blackberries and strawberries
2-3 tbsp (30-45 ml) sugar, divided (or to taste)
6-8 meringues (store-bought is perfect)
1/2 cup (125 ml) heavy (whipping) cream
Dessert prep: Set mixing bowl and beaters in freezer for whipping cream.
To make the pasta: In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Add the asparagus to the pot for the last two minutes of cooking time, then drain everything well in a colander.
Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of oil in a large, heavy skillet set over medium-high heat.
Sauté the leeks for three to four minutes, until soft. Add the lemon zest and cook for another minute, then stir in the cream and the chicken. Bring to a simmer, stirring to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, roughly mash the berries with 2–3 tbsp sugar using a potato masher or fork. Set aside to let macerate during dinner.
Add the cooked pasta and asparagus to the pan along with the Parmesan cheese and toss to coat. Sprinkle with pepper and serve, passing extra Parmesan at the table.
For dessert, whip the cream with a pinch of sugar until stiff peaks form. To assemble the Eton mess, crumble a couple meringues into the bottom of each small dessert dish; top with macerated berries and whipped cream.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, May 2014.