Skillet chicken with orzo pasta

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My mom used to make this skillet chicken with orzo pasta when I was growing up. I loved it and started making it myself when I moved in with Paul a few years ago. It’s pretty easy and very satisfying. She got it from a newspaper column that I think was in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

This meal is good for weeknights, especially because there are very few dishes involved. The fewer dishes, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s great for lunches the next day too. I can’t remember for sure, but I think my mom packed this in my lunchbox when I was in junior high or high school. It’s funny to me that I can’t remember high school as well as I used to. It was 10 years ago now, so of course.

If you’re a meal prepper, I highly recommend trying this recipe for a packed lunch. It tastes good hot or cold. I prefer heating it up but honestly it’s fine cold too.

Paul and I had this for dinner on a Sunday night recently. Maggie tried it for the first time as part of her lunch on Monday and she seemed to love it. I just heated it up a little, cut the beans and chicken smaller with kitchen shears, mixed in a dollop of plain yogurt and added some freshly ground black pepper. The yogurt and pepper make up for the lack of basil and parmesan in her portion. Yogurt also makes it more creamy so it was easier to eat.

Skillet Chicken with Orzo Pasta

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1 tablespoon olive oil
1 to 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless organic chicken thighs, cut into bite-size chunks (or use breasts)
1 cup orzo pasta
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 cup chicken broth or water
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans diced  tomatoes in their own juice (can use garlic and oregano flavored)
1 to 1 1/2  teaspoons dried oregano (use the larger amount if you like oregano)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (optional)

Garnish: freshly grated Parmesan cheese, fresh basil cut in a chiffonade, or toasted pine nuts

In a big 12-inch skillet (one that has a lid for later), heat oil over medium heat, add the chicken and sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add dried orzo and garlic and sauté an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until orzo begins to brown (like it does when you make a rice pilaf). Add broth or water, tomatoes with their juices, oregano and salt. Stir, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice during that time. Open the skillet, gently stir in the beans and spinach, re-cover and cook for a final 5 minutes.

Serve in wide soup or stew bowls, garnished with grated Parmesan, a chiffonade of fresh basil leaves and a few pine nuts scattered on top.

Yield: 6 servings.

Notes: Cannellini beans may be referred to as White Kidney Beans. They are similar to great Northern beans and navy beans. According to Cook’s Illustrated, Great Northern beans are a good substitute but Navy beans are not.

I love this with spinach, as suggested in the recipe, but I skipped it this time because I forgot to thaw it out.

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