New recipe: Chicken tonnato pasta salad
A really good pasta salad for people who are sniffy about pasta salad
If you’re a pasta salad sceptic like my friend C, you need to try this recipe from my book Food, Wine & Friends which makes a great make-ahead main for a summer supper for friends.
The chicken is poached in a light chicken stock, cooled* then mixed with freshly cooked, cooled pasta, a classic tuna ‘tonnato’ sauce, artichoke hearts - though these are optional - and a punchy ‘gremolata’ of anchovies, capers and parsley. So not bland and boring at all.
Don’t be daunted by the rather long list of ingredients. The gremolata is based on pretty well the same ingredients as the sauce but chopped rough for added texture.
Oh and don’t serve it straight from the fridge. That’s what makes pasta salads so horrid.
* So you need to do that bit beforehand. Or you could use cooked chicken but freshly poached is better.
750ml chicken stock or stock made with a decent chicken stock cube
1 small onion, quartered
1 celery stick, trimmed and cut into a couple of pieces
1 bay leaf
2 thinly pared strips of rind from an unwaxed lemon
8-10 black peppercorns
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 600g in total)
200g dried pasta shapes - I used fusilli
A small pack or jar of grilled artichoke hearts, quartered (optional)
1 tbsp roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
For the dressing
100g good quality tinned tuna, drained weight
2 tbsp capers, rinsed
2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
200g good quality mayonnaise
a pinch of cayenne pepper
For the gremolata
3-6 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
1 tbsp capers
grated zest of 1 small unwaxed lemon or half a larger one
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
Pour the stock into a saucepan large enough to take the chicken breasts in a single layer. Bring to the boil, add the onion, celery, bay leaf, lemon rind and peppercorns, turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Carefully lower the chicken breasts into the stock, adding some boiling water, if needed, to cover them. Bring back to the boil, then turn right down and simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pan and let the chicken cool in the stock.
Cook the pasta following the instructions on the packet and refresh with cold water.
Once the chicken and pasta are cool, make the dressing. Put the drained tuna in a food processor with the capers, lemon juice and chopped anchovy fillets and whizz until you have a paste. Add the mayonnaise and cayenne pepper and whizz again until smooth. Turn into a large bowl.
Put all the ingredients for the gremolata on a chopping board and chop them together.
Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and cut or tear into rough chunks. Add the chicken, pasta, quartered artichoke hearts, if using, and gremolata to the dressing and toss lightly. Check the seasoning, adding more lemon juice or cayenne peper to taste if you think it needs it.
Spoon onto on a serving dish, scattering over a little more chopped parsley over the top.
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