"True wine enthusiasts don’t collect wines.
They collect memories of wines shared with friends and family."

-Dario Zucconi

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Baked Penne Rigate with Roasted Chicken and Broccoli

Ever wonder what to do with that half of the left-over roasted chicken you have in the refrigerator besides just eating it plain?  How about the bunch of broccoli that is in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator that your kids don't want to have anything to do with?  Well, wonder no more!  I have an easy-to-make, delicious baked penne rigate pasta with roasted chicken and broccoli for you that will make everyone in your family scream for seconds -- even the kids.  Chances are you already have pasta and pasta sauce in your pantry.  And, with this dish, you can make enough to have two dinners during the week.  So, here it goes!

1/2 roasted chicken, shredded (or a couple of chicken breasts, boiled, then shredded)
1 package of fresh organic broccoli (or about 2 bunches of broccoli)
1/2 red onion
1 clove of garlic
1 box of penne rigate pasta (or ziti pasta, if you don't have penne)
2 jars of Tomato/Basil pasta sauce (or whatever flavor pasta sauce you have in the pantry)
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups of ricotta cheese
1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped (or use 1 tablespoon of dried parsley)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Cooking Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom of a large Pyrex baking dish.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add about 1 tablespoon of salt to the water.  Cook pasta according to package instructions for about 1/2 the time so the pasta is very al dente as it will continue to cook in the oven.  During the last minute of boiling, add the broccoli in the pot with the pasta to soften just a bit.  Drain the pasta and broccoli immediately after the time is up, run under cold water, and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, saute the onions in a large sauce pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic for about 1 minute.  Add the chicken to the pan, stir to mix in with the onions and garlic.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and stir.  Add the pasta sauce and stir.  Let the sauce simmer on low heat for about 5-10 minutes to warm up and flavor the chicken.

Once the sauce is heated through, add the cooked pasta and broccoli to the pot (or use a large mixing bowl to mix the pasta and the sauce).  Spread evenly 1/2 of the pasta in the greased Pyrex baking dish.  Spread evenly 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese, 1/2 of the ricotta cheese, and 1/2 the parmesan cheese onto the first layer of pasta.  Sprinkle 1/2 of the chopped parsley on top of the cheese.  Then, repeat with the remaining pasta, cheeses, and parsley.  Cover the dish, and bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the edges are bubbling and the cheeses are melted.  During the last 5 minutes of cooking, uncover.  When done, remove from the oven and serve.

Wine Pairing Suggestion
For this hearty, red pasta sauce dish, I have two wine recommendations: One is a more sophisticated wine (a bit pricier).  The other is a little more casual, and less expensive.  Take your pick and enjoy!

The first wine recommendation is Villa Antinori Toscana -- a Super Tuscan wine (from Tuscany, Italy) that sells for about $17 at BevMo or Safeway.  It is a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Syrah.  This wine used to be labeled as a Chianti Classico.  But, the Antinoris recently started using a different blend of grapes than those allowed by the region of Chianti Classico in Tuscany.  So they can't call it Chianti Classico anymore.

This wine is medium-bodied, smooth and elegant.  It has flavors of blackberry and raspberry, with soft tannins and a nice persistent finish on the palate.  Its has intense deep ruby red color.

This wine is one of my and Patrick's favorite Italian wines. We first became acquainted with the Villa Antinori wines when Patrick and I visited Italy more than 8 years ago during my last year of law school.  We went to a wine-tasting event in Florence, Italy where we tried the wine.  Then, we went to dinner one night at a restaurant in Florence called Buca Mario (http://www.bucamario.it/restaurant).  We had a bottle of Villa Antinori there.  Oh my gosh!  We had the best meal of our lives there and one of the best nights ever!  In fact, we were the last ones to leave the restaurant there.  The waiters kept bringing us food and wine samples. That is where we first tasted Limoncello, which is an Italian lemon liquer made out of lemon zest, alcohol, water, and sugar.  It is delicious.  Well, I'll save that for another blog entry when I feature some yummy dessert.

The point is, I still dream about that meal at Buca Mario even now.  As you can imagine, Patrick and I fell in love with each other all over again in Italy during that vacation. Since then, each time we have a bottle of Villa Antinori, it brings us back to that vacation.  I hope you try this wine and make your own special memory.

Another wine that I would recommend is Novella Synergy, which is produced by EOS Winery in Paso Robles, CA.  You can normally buy this wine at Trader Joe's for about $7.  This wine is a blend of 56% Petite Sirah, 39% Zinfandel and 5% Sangiovese. It has deep purple color.  Once you taste it, it has flavors of raspberries and blackberries, with some notes of dried fruits, oak, and spices (such as fennel and pepper).  It has an excellent finish that leaves your mouth with a hint of chocolate.  It is a great wine to have during the winter or on cold nights, with a nice plate of comfort food like the penne above.  I also hope you try this wine and let me know what you think.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


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