So I finally made the second dish for my first NTWC Platinum Chef Challenge hosted by Cara and I am so glad I waited to really figure out what I wanted to make before I just threw a few things together and called it a day.
The remainder of my challenge ingredients were basil, tomatoes, and zucchini. Sounds easy enough? Sure. But I made a resolution this year to move away from being tied down to cooking with recipes and start coming up with my own creations. More than creativity, it was about my feeling confident with my abilities to combine ingredients and experiment with flavor. And the result here was so satisfying!! In the vegetable stuffing, I used the zucchini and I used the basil and tomatoes in the sauce that topped the chicken, which sat atop a bed of orzo (my new favorite pasta!). More than I amazed Kyle that this wasn’t from a recipe or cookbook (which he did ask me), I amazed myself…and found a great new “go-to” meal both for an easy weeknight dinner and to serve to guests alike.
Vegetable-Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Red Pepper Basil Sauce
- 1/2 large zucchini, diced small (1/4″) and divided
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced and divided
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, split open horizontally to form a pocket
- 2 oz fontina cubed (small)
- 1/2 to 3/4 of a roasted red pepper
- 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces orzo pasta
- reserved pasta water
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium-sized oven-safe saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add half of the zucchini and cook for 3 minutes. Lower heat to medium then add spinach and half of the garlic and cook until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and set aside and allow to cool in a separate bowl for a couple of minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Salt and pepper both sides of chicken. Stuff pockets of the chicken breasts with vegetable stuffing, adding fontina far enough into pocket so that it won’t fall out while cooking.
- In the same saute pan from the vegetables, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Carefully place stuffed chicken breasts into pan and saute for 6 minutes, flipping once. Cover and move to oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked through.
- Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil and cook orzo according to package directions. Drain, reserving a little water for the sauce.
- While chicken is in the oven, add roasted red pepper, basil, the remaining garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper to a blender or food processor (I used my mini food processor – perfect size for this). Blend until almost smoothe.
- In a small sauce pan heated over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add remaining zucchini; cook 3 minutes. Add red pepper mixture and tomato paste; stir until heated through. Turn heat to low and stir in heavy cream. Stir to combine into a sauce, adding pasta water if sauce needs to be thinned out. Add parmesan cheese and cook until sauce thickens and then add salt and pepper to taste.
- With pot holders remove pan from oven and serve.