I have a weird relationship with Tortellini (and filled pasta in general) – I know I should like them, because I love all things pasta-related, but I often find them a bit .. slimy, and so easily over-cooked.
Is it just me? Yes? Oh, ok then…
Slimy and often over-cooked (my fault, I understand that now..) Anyway, I decided to see how I could fix it. I wanted a pasta bake that was unusual, easy and above all tasty, and after a few trials I’m proud to offer up my latest creation. I think this will double up really well for feeding a crowd, either for the family or as part of a party buffet. The recipe below feeds 4-6 generously.
There are a few ‘bits’ to this recipe, but the more often you make it, the easier it becomes, as you can do a couple of things at once. Also, nothing needs to be kept warm, as it gets a good roasting before serving.
** For a Vegetarian option, see the NOTES at the bottom** I made this for our favourite Vegetarian friend last week, and we ALL had two helpings!!
Andiamo.. although it’s only very loosely Italian – right?
For 4-6 people, as a main course:
- A small saucepan
- A medium saucepan
- Medium sized bowl
- a frying pan
- whisk, wooden spoon
- lasagne dish, or similar.
INGREDIENTS: This will feed 4-6 people.
- 1-2 packets of good quality ready-made tortellini, or other filled pasta. About 500g.
- 500g of skinless, boneless chicken thighs.
- Zest and juice of 1 large lemon.
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- handful of parsley, finely chopped
- 1-2 medium red onions, cut into slivers
- sprinkle of red chilli flakes (not too much)
- Vegetable oil (I used local rapeseed oil)
- 75g butter
- 75g plain flour
- 250mls milk
- 250-350mls hot chicken (or vegetable) stock
- small glass of white wine (optional)
- frozen peas – about 50g – see NOTES
- breadcrumbs, about 3-4 tablespoonfuls
- 50g grated cheese (cheddar or Parmesan, or whatever you like)
Start by marinating the chicken:
- Cut off any sinew and fat from the chicken thighs, and cut each one into 3-4 strips.
- Marinate the Chicken, some chopped parsley, the chilli flakes, a dessertspoon of oil, half the lemon juice and the crushed garlic while you prep the red onions.
- Heat the medium saucepan, add the chicken mixture, and stir to get it coloured.
- Add the wine and let it reduce a little.
- Add the red onion and mix in well.
- Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer gently while you get on with the rest.
Deal with the filled Pasta:
- Gently separate the pasta shapes (I find they tend to stick together)
- Put them into the bowl, then add enough boiling water to cover them.
- Time them for exactly 4 minutes, then drain them well.
- Heat the frying pan to a med-hot heat, and spray with cooking oil.
- When it’s hot, add the pasta in a single layer. If you’re feeding a crowd, you may need to do this in two batches.
- Give them 5-8 minutes, then turn them over to crisp up the other side – Weird eh? Crispy pasta, who ever heard of that?
- Drain the crisped up pasta on some kitchen paper. They don’t need to be kept warm.
Making the sauce:
- melt the butter in the smallest saucepan .
- Add the flour and cook for only about 30 seconds.
- Remove from the heat and gradually mix in the milk until blended, then add 250mls of the stock and return it to the hob.
- Cook gently over a medium heat, stirring continuously, until it starts to thicken.
- See if you need to add the rest of the stock – the sauce should be the thickness of double cream.
- Add half the lemon zest and the rest of the lemon juice and mix in.
- Taste for seasoning and adjust as required.
Putting it all together: I think it’s best not to put it together until you’re ready to cook it, but you can certainly have all the bits ready to go.
- Heat the oven to 170 fan, or equivalent.
- Put the pasta into a lightly oiled lasagne dish in a single layer.
- Add the chicken mixture to the sauce and mix through.
- Pour the sauce over the crispy pasta.
- Pour over the frozen petit-pois.
- Mix the bread crumbs with the cheese and the last of the lemon zest, and sprinkle over generously.
- Give it 30 minutes or so in the oven until the breadcrumbs are crispy and the sauce is bubbling at the sides of the dish.
- Serve, sprinkled with chopped parsley or fresh basil, with a big green salad, and some garlicky bread,
- I’ve used Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Spinach and Lemon Ricotta Tortellini, and on another occasion Dunnes Stores ‘Simply Better’ Buffalo Mozzarella and Spinach Ravioli. Both are good.
- We decided that garlic bread was a bit excessive, but it’s good for mopping up the sauce. However, we opted for a Green salad the last time we had it, and it worked really well.
- I really like the crispy pasta, it gives a bit of contrast to the creamy sauce and the tender chicken.
- For the Veggie option, I simply replaced the chicken with Oven-roasted Butternut Squash. Just peel the squash, and cut it into chunks, toss in a bowl with some Rapeseed oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven on a shallow baking tray for 15-20 minutes until the edges start to singe, and the squash is fairly tender. I also added the frozen petit-pois just before the final cooking.
- Cauliflower florets, roasted for about 10 minutes in a med-hot oven are also a good vegetarian option. The tortellini are a veggie option anyway. Don’t forget to replace the Chicken stock with vegetable stock.
- Of course you can add extra vegetables if you have them, even to the Chicken version of this dish – roasted, sliced red peppers; softened Leeks; sweetcorn kernels..