Chicken & Penne pasta is one of my all time favorite dishes, because there are about a thousand different ways you can change it up.  In this recipe, I show how to make Chicken Penne Arrabiata, which is an Italian dish with spicy rich tomato sauce.  The sauce, is similar to a standard marinara or pomodoro, but it’s spiked with some hot chili flakes and red wine vinegar.  When combined with the pasta & chicken you get a beautiful marriage of rich and spicy tomato, with the more mild pasta and chicken.  Tossed with a bit of basil and fresh parmesan cheese, and I’m in heaven.  While the sauce can take some time to make, I generally make large batches, freeze the leftovers, and then can get this meal on the table in about 25 minutes.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Recipe Overview and Keys to Success
To make the best Chicken Penne Arrabiata, just follow these few simple steps:

  1. You gotta use a good sauce.  I like my homemade recipe, but if you really need to save time, use your favorite jarred sauce and add about a half tablespoon (or more, but be careful of the heat) of chili flakes and allow it to simmer for 30 – 60 minutes
  2. Sear the chicken off, and allow it to cool before cutting.  You want the chicken just barely cooked through, because after you dice it, we’ll toss it in with the pasta and sauce for about 5 minutes to incorporate the flavors.  You don’t it to get overcooked then.
  3. Obviously, cook the pasta right…to al dente.  Start tasting it about 2 minutes before the suggested time, and remove it just as it becomes al dente to finish it in the sauce.
  4. Finally, when finishing the Chicken Penne Arrabiata, turn the heat off and add a bit of parmesan and some fresh olive oil (in addition to tasting to make sure the seasoning is right)…that’s the bit of extra love that will make it great.

RECIPE FOR CHICKEN PENNE ARRABIATA
Ingredients (for 2)

  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breasts – lightly pounded out
  • 1 cup Arrabiata sauce
  • 1/3 lb penne pasta
  • ~1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • 5 – 6 fresh basil leaves

Making the Chicken Penne Arrabiata

  • Heat your sauce to a simmer on a back burner
  • While the water heats, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, and coast the bottom with olive oil
  • Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper on both sides
  • Add the chicken breast to the pan (you should hear a load sizzle, if not all the pan to continue to heat)
  • Continue to cook on that one side for 3 – 4 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown
  • Turn the chicken over to sear the other side
  • Depending on the thickness the chicken should be cooked through.  If it’s more than 1.5 inches, flip over to the original side and continue to cook for 2 – 3 more minutes.  The goal is to get the chicken just cooked through
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and turn off the heat
  • While the chicken cools,  bring a large pot of salted water to the boil for the penne
  • Add the penne pasta to the water, and stir to prevent sticking.  Stir every 2 – 3 minutes until the penne just reaches al dente
  • Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle dice it into bite size pieces
  • Just before draining the pasta, reserve about a half cup of the pasta water & reheat the pan you cooked the chicken in over med-high heat
  • Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pan, drain the penne pasta well, and then add the penne to the hot pan, along with the Arrabiata sauce, and the chicken
  • Season with salt and pepper, and toss everything to combine
  • If the pan looks too dry or anything is sticking, add some of the reserved pasta water
  • Continue to cook, tossing everything 30 seconds or so, until everything is heated through, and the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce
  • Turn off the heat, add about ½ of the parmesan chees, another tablespoon or so of olive oil, and the basil leaves chopped coarsely
  • Toss together, and taste.  If needed reseason with salt and pepper
  • Serve the chicken penne Arrabiata up in a pasta bowl with the remaining cheese and one more little drizzle of olive oil

Wine recommendation:  While I don’t typically love red wines with spicy food, I’m going to pull out my goto for tomato sauces, and suggest a Chianti.  Tomato and chianti are a perfect, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  I would suggest you got with a younger, less expensive one, that is higher in fruit and light on the tannin.  Enjoy!