Fratelli Perata Winery

Chicken Pesto Pasta

This is not your ordinary Pasta, by any means. Joanne and Carol were at the table with pesto and sour cream, and leftover roasted chicken. As happens, a little dabbling occurred and wow, that tasted great. Even better with the just bottled Charbono. So Good! The wine club dinner was coming up, as was our meeting with Chef Nicola. We excitedly sat down with Nicola and the first thing we said was he had to make pasta using these flavors as a filling. Ah, he said, I already do that. It’s Chicken Pesto Lasagna. Yep, there it was on his menu. Was it subliminal or kismet or a meeting of great palates? Whatever the source of the recipe, and whatever the source of your choosing how to assemble this combination of flavors, do try this. It absolutely is meant to be paired with the 2008 Charbono, which you will find very appealing right now. It is amazingly good with all those big flavors of wine and pasta together at last. And why not?  After all, that’s Italian! The premise here is to combine Béchamel Sauce, Pesto, Basil of course, Roasted Chicken, Pasta and Parmigiano

Bechamel
From  The Gourmet Cookbook. Actually a Mornay Sauce, using Parmigiano Reggiano

2 tablespoons unsalted butter               2 tablespoons all-purpose flour       2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion        ¼ teaspoon salt                               white pepper to taste

Melt butter in a heavy 11/2- to 2- quart saucepan over moderately low hear. Add onion and cook stirring until softened, about 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes to make a roux. Add milk in a steady stream, whisking constantly, and cook, whisking, until thick and smooth. Whisk in salt and pepper, then simmer sauce, whisking frequently, until thickened to desired consistency, 10 to 15 minutes.

If done carefully, you don’t need to sieve this, so we skipped this step: Pour sauce through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, discard solids. Add the ¾ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated, and stir until incorporated. If not serving sauce immediately cover surface with a buttered round of wax paper, buttered side down, to prevent a skin from forming.

Pesto

This is where it gets serious. In season we use fresh Basil, the leaves only, pulverized for an hour (more, it seems) in Mama’s mortar and pestle. Completely smooth, we add olive oil, garlic cloves, and a small handful of pine nuts and make that into a paste. To serve, we add more olive oil than used in the mortar. The main point is, when basil and olive oil are put in a food processor, it’s not quite the same. In the interest of time, it is probably more sane, however. The 3rd choice is to simply purchase a very high quality prepared pesto in a jar.

Roasted Chicken

Sorry, you’re on your own here. Either roast or purchase a roasted chicken. Don’t get fancy and have flavor-enhanced (ie, strongly herbed or lemon) chicken. You just want the cooked meat, cubed.
Pasta

For those of you adept at making fresh pasta at home, Nicola used sheets of very thin pasta, cooked, drained, then layered with the sauce, some cheese on top. Don’t use those thick, packaged noodles. It is too much, too heavy here. Alternatively, we used mini penne pasta with the sauce when we served it to the club at Harvest Faire.

Compilation

To 2 cups warm Bechamel Sauce, add ¾ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (this  is as mentioned above, here in case you didn’t see it). Stir until smooth. Stir in 1 Tablespoon Pesto, plus 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil. I like more pesto flavoring, others like it more subtle. When uniformly distributed, add 1 cup cubed skinless chicken. Then create either your lasagna or add to your favorite pasta shape. Lasagna is baked at 350 degrees just until the top is a little browned and the sauce starts bubbling.