Once more I feel as if my next post chronicling my culinary adventures should showcase a “made on the fly” recipe that I threw together to satisfy a fast craving. Last night I found myself wanting Italian food, which I rarely do. Specifically, I’ve been missing spaghetti and marinara sauce. Since I’m trying to conform to Paleo as much as possible, pasta noodles are something I’ve had to write off from my life. A friend, and co-worker, recently talked me into getting a spiralizer for veggies, which I’ve used on a couple of occasions on things such as cucumbers in order to hone my skills with the machine (which really is not that hard to use). Armed with this new skill and machine, I felt ready to tackle a pasta substitute dish.
Your typical Chicken Cacciatore dish comes breaded and on a bed of carby, gluten pasta and covered in cheese. I packed this recipe with such flavor that I did not miss the cheese, the breading, or the actual pasta. It starts off by searing up your chicken, I used boneless and skinless chicken thighs, then reserving the browned meet to the side. Next comes the onions, lots of garlic, everything tomato, and back in goes the chicken to simmer in this saucy goodness. After the chicken as finished cooking, I remove it and cover with foil to maintain, and throw my veggies in.
Once the dish is fully cooked, it is time to plate it. I put down a nice bedding of Zucchini Squash noodles, rest the chicken on top, and drape it with a few spoonfuls of sauce and veggies. I finish it off with a sprinkle of parsley, a good red wine (yes, I know it isn’t Paleo, and some good background music. This dish has two simmer phases, one with chicken and one with veggies, so it is a great dish to prepare for guests. You can make it ahead of time and leave it on the stove to simmer until dinner is ready to be served, or just start it up and only come back into the kitchen when you need to switch simmering phases. It is sure to impress any of your guests by giving them a low-calorie, low-fat, sophisticated Italian entree.
- 4-8 boneless & skinless chicken thighs
- 1 jar hardy marinara sauce
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 2 cans diced tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken stock; for deglazing
- 2 white onions
- 1-2 lbs mushrooms
- 2 red bell peppers
- 5-8 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp fennel seed
- 1 tbsp crushed red pepper (vary based on your desired level of spice)
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tbsp herbs de provence
- 1 tbsp pure cane sugar, or steevia
- 3-4 Zucchini Squash (You’ll need a spiralizer for this)
- Salt & Pepper; to taste
The first thing you’ll want to do is spiralize your Zucchini Squash. Get it on a plate, or bowl, and set aside. You can also get your water for blanching set up and on the stove. I typically turn the water on a very low heat, to start knocking off the chill, and salt it (salty like the ocean).
Next get your chicken seasoned with salt and pepper. I used only a tablespoon of avocado oil, but your mileage may very. Heat the pan and oil on medium-high heat, and put the chicken in seasoned side down. You may need to do this in batches, so that you do not crowd the pan. Season the other side, and let it brown. Typically about 6 minutes, and then proceed to the other side.
While the chicken is browning, take this opportunity to tackle some prep work. Cut your onions into half moons, peel and finely chop your garlic, and start working on slicing your mushrooms into thick slices. By this time all of your chicken should be browned. Discard the oil, but don’t lose any of the grit as this is pure flavor, and throw in your onions. Lower your heat to medium, as you simply want to sweat the onions. Throw in your fennel, crushed red pepper, oregano and herbs de provence. Once the onions are close to done, about 5 minutes, add your garlic. Do not add it too soon, as you do not want the garlic to burn. Stir this, letting the garlic release some of its aroma, and adjusting the heat as needed.
Next you’ll want to add in your tomato paste and cans of diced tomatoes. Let this reduce down, and use your chicken stock to help keep it from sticking to the bottom. Once this has reduced down, takes about 3 minutes, add your entire jar of marinara sauce. Let it come up to temp and give it a taste. At this point you’ll want to add your sugar and any salt or pepper that is missing. Put the chicken back in and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, or until done.
While the chicken is simmering you can chop your red bell pepper and set it with your mushrooms. Once the chicken has finished, remove it and cover with foil. Add in the remaining ingredients and let it simmer. The goal is to get the veggies tender, and to let some of the water simmer out of the sauce so it tightens up. At the same time, bring your water up to a boil for your noodles.
Once the sauce has finished, this step takes about 10 minutes, remove it from the heat and let it cool. Next, drop your noodles into the boiling water and let them blanch for about 2 minutes. Pour into a strainer and let as much water strain out, as possible. Add a drizzle of good finishing oil, if you so desire, and your noodles are done.
To plate you simply put down a bed of noodles in the center, rest one or two chicken thighs on top, and spoon the veggies and sauce over the top. If you have parsley on hand, I put a sprinkle of roughly chopped parsley to add look and flavor to the final dish. Sit down and watch as your guests are blown away by this sophisticated Italian dish that they will not believe is actually on the healthy side.