Pop Star Pasta
During college, my sister left our student digs in California to spend a month living at a recording studio housed in a stunning Victorian in New Orleans. When she returned, we recreated a pasta dish that the proprietress had served her while she was there. In the years since, we have revised and transformed the recipe as our tastes and moods changed. We call it Pop Star Pasta to reflect where it started and because the flavors “pop” when eaten, pepper, lemon zest, garlic, and tangy feta.
2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 2lbs
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
2 lb. ripe tomatoes, Early Girl are my favorite variety for this recipe, but any ripe tomatoes will do
1 small clove garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
Zest and juice of one lemon
20 basil leaves, fresh
¾ lb. crumbled Feta cheese
1 lb. Fusilli pasta
Grind pepper into a small dish so that it is ready when you need it. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Coat the chicken with a thin layer of olive oil. Sprinkle salt onto both sides of the chicken. Next, rub the ground pepper onto the chicken breasts so that they are coated, almost blackened with pepper. Place the meat onto a broiling pan and place the pan in the broiler so that it is in the position farthest from the flame. Cook for 10 minutes on each side. Next, with the pan closest to the flame, broil both sides for 2 minutes to get a bit of crispness on the outside.
While the chicken is broiling, boil water in a large soup pot to cook the pasta and prepare the rest of the ingredients, setting each aside to be mixed together with the pasta and chicken at the very end. Core the tomatoes and cut them into wedges. Chop the small clove of garlic very fine. Zest one lemon and cut it in half, you will squeeze the lemon juice over the chicken later. Chop the basil leaves into a chiffonade. Crumble the feta.
20-25 minutes to this point
When the water boils, add the pasta and cook to your preferred doneness. While the pasta is cooking, the chicken should finish cooking. Pull it out of the broiler and chop into bite size chunks. Squirt the lemon onto the chopped chicken. Drain the pasta, immediately put it back in the soup pot and toss with a drizzle of olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking. Then one by one start adding all of the remaining ingredients and stir, garlic, lemon zest, tomatoes, Feta, and chicken.
15-20 minutes to do this part
Transfer to a pasta dish and serve. Great for a summer evening and kids love it too.
Total time: 35-45 minutes