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Do Italians put chicken on pasta?

I haven't been to Italy for several years, so I can't remember -- in Italy, do you ever see those dishes that are so ubiquitous on Italian menus in America like chicken with penne, chicken alfredo, etc.?
I have a sense that this is really not an authentic thing, but would love input from actual Italians or those who have travelled widely there.

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  1. Honestly, I don't recall seeing this in almost 2 years there. However, this combo is not to my liking so I probably would have flown past it on any menu.

    1. Not to hijack this thread, but another "do Italians" question - do Italians break their spaghetti noodles in half before cooking? Someone told me that, but why would they make it that long in the first place if you're going to chop them in half?

      4 Replies
      1. re: janethepain

        If you break the noodles then you wouldn't really be able to twirl them on the fork as well.

        1. re: janethepain

          hi. i recently read that breaking the noodles up before cooking started a few decades ago, in america, at a time when proper table etiquette did not include slurping your spaghetti. cooks would break them, so they could be eaten without much of a mess. don't know if this is true. just what i read. it would make sense.

          1. re: jackie57

            More likely because the pot was too small.

          2. re: janethepain

            Breaking spaghetti also depends on what dish your making. In the old days if grandmom made the macaroni by hand she wasn't making tubettini, penne, etc...They made spaghetti, or gnocci. In my house when we make a white pasta e` fagioli (pasta Fazool) we use spaghetti and break it up to soup spoon size pices. you could use some other soup type pasta but it's just not the same taste to us, all a matter of personal preference/taste, family recipe or tradition. For example when we make it red we use small shells or tubetti. Meats and Pasta are usually seperate courses. Your meatball, sausage and brochiole maybe be on the same plate as your macaroni but it's not mixed together. This idea came from chain joints like Olive Garden who tout their recipe's as straight from Italy, then boast some chicken alfredo crap as authentic which just isn't the case. That's not to say that No one in Italy never, not once, ever mixed chicken with alfredo sauce and put it on top of pasta, catch my drift?

          3. No, they dont' break the noodles. Put them in the pot and as they cook they'll drop down into the water.

            I don't remember chicken on pasta in my two years there either but 1) I was up north near Bergamo(so maybe other regions do?) and 2) like chaddict it's not something I normally order so ten years later I might have forgotten seeing it on the menus.

            1. No. Pasta and chicken are different courses. This combination is an American creation. And yes, my grandmother broke her spaghetti in half, while some of her friends did not. It all depended on the diameter of the pot. A rondeaux shaped one (like a Dutch oven) boils faster and you didn' t need to break the noodles. From my observation, few women of that generation seemed to have the time or patience to start pushing the pasta down into a pot when it was soft enough to bend. They were too busy cooking five other courses for their families, so they broke it. When it was cooked, they carried the pot over to a sink and emptied said pasta into a colander. Tall pots with pasta inserts are also an American creation, but a good idea at that. You seldom have to break the noodles in one of those tall pots. But getting back to the topic -- chicken scallopine or on the bone is ALWAYS served as a separate course from the pasta, even if the sauce is identical. They can be served at the same time in some Italian American restaurants.

              3 Replies
              1. re: RGC1982

                That is my experience, too-pasta and meat (with some exceptions, ie bolognese sauce or carbonara sauce) are separate courses. I like that they are separate courses-they really just don't go together, IMO. If I ever see the two combined on an "Italian" restaurant menu here-something like pasta with chicken and vegetables-I take that as a red flag.

                1. re: RGC1982

                  tall pots with inserts are actually a restaurant invention, so that there is always boiling water for the next order.

                  chicken with pasta is an american creation. until recently chicken was never an inexpensive protein, but now thanks to industrial farming it's dirt cheap. this explains its absence in historical recipes.

                  traditional italian meals served pasta before the protein because the meat portions were always very small and had to be stretched to go a long way. the broth produced by cooking the meat was made into soup or sauce for the next day. it's not arbitrary. it's economics. much of what is now italy was very poor for a very long time.

                  1. re: RGC1982

                    Not just American. It is done all over the world. And yes it may not be authentic but can be pretty darned delightful! Slow-braised chicken ragu on paparedelle is pretty fine!

                  2. This might be an interesting question from an regional historical perspective, but really who cares what the italians put on their pasta, just do what tasts good to you.

                    33 Replies
                    1. re: malibumike

                      Malibumike, the foodie police are coming to your door for uttering such heresy.

                      But I agree 1000%. The other day my partner made a dish with penne, asparagus and chicken. It was heavenly. I'm Italian and I could not possibly care less what they do, or did, in Italy (in this regard, at least). And my dad stuffed me full of "pasta fazool" with macaroni, beans and bacon, when I was a kid. His folks were both Italian immigrants and some combo of meat with pasta was on the table every day. Okay, not chicken, but again, who cares? italian gastronomic "rules" are such nonsense anyway- no seafood and cheese? Huh? And no cappuccino after 10am? Wha? Why? Tradition? You gotta do better than that.

                      Foodies drive me up a freaking wall sometimes.

                      Edited because as people who know me know, I can be a stickler for "tradition" some times, but there has to be a point to it. I eat sushi with my fingers because it's easier, not because it's "more Japanese" than using chopsticks. I eat Thai food (rice-based) with a spoon because it's impossble to eat such food with chopsticks, not because of Thai standards. The spoon isn't arbitrary; it's the absolutely best way to get that delicious slurry of rice and curry into my cake hole. Itaian "rules" are silly, arbitrary, pointless. I won't pay attention to them.

                      1. re: John Manzo

                        What you say about Italy is so true..there are so many things you shouldn't do and not just related to food. I live here and it would drive me mad if I listened to everyone around me. Up to about 5 years ago you would never have ordered a pizza with chips. Now because the 14-year-olds won't eat anything else it's become the latest fashion and it's perfectly all right - they haven't got to the ham and pineapple toppings yet but I'm working on it. If I succeed I will have it christened as the Pizza alla Coombe.

                        1. re: John Manzo

                          John, you're right, as long as the person breaking the rules has some taste. However, there is a danger to that philosophy when word of it gets out. That's why we have Starbucks' disastrous version of the cappuccino, for example.

                          To speak to the topic, I don't know tradition on this, but I've never cared for chicken on pasta. It just doesn't work for me. Whenever I get it in restaurants, it seems like the juices always seep into the pasta and the chicken ends up dry and bland tasting. Maybe someone out there is doing a better job of it though(?).

                          1. re: John Manzo

                            Italians combine meat and pasta, but they don't put big slabs of chicken (or other meats) on top of pasta. Traditional pasta dishes do contain chopped up pieces of chicken, vegetables, chicken livers, shrimp, beans or anything else. Those are all complements and blend with the pasta. They don't usually have pasta as the primary dish in a meal, but rather have a much smaller serving than is typical in the US as a first course.

                            I think the chicken slab on top of the pasta was invented to satisfy American's love of pasta and feeling that they have to have some meat to eat. Stick the two together, you've got a main course. Sell them as two courses and Americans won't buy them.

                            Italians are constantly coming up with new combinations, and their tastes are changing also. Not as much time for 3-4 course meals any more. Still pasta with chicken slabs aren't traditional.

                            1. re: John Manzo

                              Who said these things are "rules"? They're just the way things are. It's not a "rule" that Italians don't drink cappuccino after breakfast time, it's just that cappuccino is a breakfast drink there. Sort of like how Americans don't ordinarily eat oatmeal with lunch, don't eat blueberry pancakes with chopsticks, and we don't put meatloaf on breakfast menus.

                              Nobody's standing at a blackboard in Italy expounding to schoolchildren about how putting slices of grilled chicken breast in pasta dishes is some sort of insult to their nationhood. It's just not something Italian cooks find themselves with an urge to do.

                              I like to imagine there's some country out there -- let's call it Bizarrostan -- where American-style southern fried chicken is eaten with tomato sauce and hot fudge, and on some food discussion website, Bizarrostani hounds are agitatedly debating the American "rule" that says you don't put tomato sauce and hot fudge on your southern fried chicken.

                              What rule? We just don't do it, and would find it a sort of odd to hear people do it in Bizarrostan. Nu?

                              1. re: hatless

                                so, eat your KFC christmas cake and enjoy it! ;-)

                                1. re: hatless

                                  No, not "Nu" it's "Ni"... say it again, Ni!

                                  Are you saying "Ni" to that old italian woman?

                                  1. re: hatless

                                    I wouldn't be so sure that we don't do it. We deep-fry oreos and candy bars in this country. If someone told me that fried chicken with hot fudge and tomato sauce was a local specialty somewhere, I'd believe it in a flash.

                                2. re: malibumike

                                  Well, as a parttime restaurant reviewer, I need to know how to assess a menu when looking at it -- whether the dishes are traditional, American interpretations, just bad ideas, etc.
                                  I always figured chicken on pasta seemed like a bad idea but I wanted to make sure it wasn't some important Italian dish I was overlooking.
                                  Aside from bolognese and carbonara (which fall into the diced or ground meat categories), I can think of a few other instances where protein works well on pasta:
                                  pasta with shrimp, clams, etc.
                                  I've had a dish with a diced lamb ragu that was yummy, and the lamb was a fairly large dice.
                                  In Milan I had a wonderful fettucine with salmon -- can't remember if it was smoked salmon or just cooked, but it was in a silky, creamy sauce
                                  And sausage can work even if it's not crumbled, but in larger chunks.
                                  I've seen duck ragu on menus but I think the duck is very finely shredded and incorporated into a flavorful ragu. Maybe that's the answer to a decent chicken pasta.
                                  But I really hate those large chunks of chicken breast that Americans seem to put on pasta so often.

                                  1. re: Chowpatty

                                    I think Americans put chicken on pasta to mitigate the dryness of the chicken meat ... and also to jack up the prices.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      I combined chicken with capellini yesterday in order to clear some items from my fridge (leftover roast chicken and some parsley pesto). Added chopped green onion on top. I won't call it Italian but I will call it tasty.

                                        1. re: coombe

                                          Yep, and dead easy to make. Capellini of course takes but a few minutes to cook (chicken breast diced and green onion chopped while it's doing so). Toss the pasta with the pesto, add chicken and toss again, plate and top with as much of the onion as you like. Salad on the side, and Roberto's your uncle.

                                    2. re: Chowpatty

                                      Don't forget yummy boar on pasta!

                                      And John Manzo, when I served tortelloni with pesto the first month I was there, my Italian friend looked at me as if I had grown 3 heads! "What? It tastes good!" I said. I was then given a sound lesson on exactly what SHAPES of pasta go with what SAUCES. Now, there was a lot of sense to most of what he said but some of it was like c'mon!

                                      As for the no fish w/ cheese rule, I have to say I'll stick to it. I think cheese over powers the delicate taste of fish.

                                      1. re: chaddict

                                        I agree with you about cheese on seafood, it's too much and doesn't work. I saw an episode of Emeril -(not a fan at all) I was surfing and saw that Mario Batali was on so I watched. Emeril plated up a huge platter of lobster over pasta- I watched Mario cringe as he proceded to put freshly grated parm all over the top- ICK!

                                        1. re: foodsnob14

                                          I saw that episode. I think Mario had to use a LOT of restraint.

                                          1. re: don giovanni

                                            Oh boy, cheese on seafood is a cardinal sin according to Mario. I did see him grate a little ricotta salata on shrimp once. Of course he pointed out that ricotta isn't considered real cheese. I have also seen him saute chicken livers and toss with pasta.

                                            1. re: Cpt Wafer

                                              But if you like fish or seafood with cheese and pasta or whatever else, why shouldn't you eat it? Just because somebody else says so?

                                              1. re: coombe

                                                Some traditions are there for a reason. I think if the vast majority of people who know something about food don't like something, it should generally be considered not good to serve. Now if someone wants to put cheese on their fish for themselves, being one of the few who like it, thats fine; but they shouldn't serve it to others -- they should recognize they're slightly weird for liking it that way.

                                                1. re: coombe

                                                  Jacque Pepin likes cheese on his seafood pasta. As much as his cooking, I really appreciate his little sidebars and anecdotes. He readily recognizes that cheese on seafood is a big Italian no-no, but like he says, it's his preference and there's nothing wrong with that. I remember him telling a story about requesting cheese for a seafood pasta at an Italian restaurant and when the chef came out to see who's the culinary idiot, he just went back to the kitchen after recognizing Pepin.

                                                  1. re: coombe

                                                    Personally I don't think it tastes good- period.

                                                    1. re: coombe

                                                      but there are dishes with fish and cheese. A fisherman's pie - cod in a cheese sauce with mashed potatoes on top baked in the oven and Sole Florentine, grilled sole, mornay sauce on a bed of spinach.

                                                2. re: foodsnob14

                                                  A friend of mine who comes from Andalucia often starts the meal off with an aperitif and little toasts topped with prawns and melted cheese .... and I can't say the seafood and cheese combination does not work.

                                                  1. re: foodsnob14

                                                    I agree (for the most part) with not serving cheese with fish. However, I do like certain cheeses with certain shellfish - not drowned in cheese, but with the cheese as a flavor enhancer.

                                                    1. re: foodsnob14

                                                      cheese and fish - it's an american institution - has no one here ever had the ever so delicious fish sandwich at mickey d's - : )

                                                      1. re: foodsnob14

                                                        Seafood and cheese is just gross. I produces a rancid, sour flavor.

                                                        You will never find chicken slabs on pasta in Italy. I've had it here in the U.S. a few times and the whole thing ends up tasting like chicken. Ragus (ground beef, duck, lamb, boar) are a different story. Because it stews with other ingredients in the sauce, the meat doesn't overwhelm the dish.

                                                        The Italians know what their doing with all their rules. It's no coincidence that they are considered culinary masters.

                                                    2. re: Chowpatty

                                                      "But I really hate those large chunks of chicken breast that Americans seem to put on pasta so often."

                                                      Me too!

                                                      But I don't like large chunks of meat in my pasta, period, be they chicken, rabbit, boar, sausage, etc.

                                                      However, if the meat has been ground or shredded, it's a different matter - in that case the meat becomes a part of the sauce that is dressing the pasta, not a separate entity that's sitting on top of the pasta and not incorporated.

                                                      1. re: Chowpatty

                                                        I think the key thing in Italy when combing a protein with pasta is that it works its way into the pasta. For example, the meat is either shredded or ground (ragu or bolognese), chopped into tiny bits (amatriciana, carbonara, etc.) or is seafood (mashed anchovies, tuna, shrimp, crab, lobster, etc.) which are all relatively smaller in size or if a fish broken into smaller pieces. I think Americans like to see the meat, therefore a large slab on top or thick slices is the preference. I've had this non-traditional way of combining meat and pasta and while it's not my favorite (because I tend to prefer the more traditional pastas) it has been very good and if there's an issue with authenticity just acknowledge the fact that you aren't trying to create an traditional dish.

                                                      2. re: malibumike

                                                        I'd agree with the sentiment of "do what you like" but perhaps a cultural difference is there for a reason; there's no need to dismiss it out of hand. I like the Italian meal because its a long, slow affair - most nice sit down dinners include a starter (appetizer), first (pasta), second (main course/meat), and then there's some variation from there. That seems like a lot of food, but its actually a nice way to eat if you make reasonably sized portions. Nothing wrong with trying something different; you may find you like it!

                                                        1. re: malibumike

                                                          Damn straight. My wife makes chicken pasta(thin spaghetti, marinara sauce with onions, mushrooms, and peppers; skinless thigh meat). It's one of the best meals I've ever had!

                                                          1. re: malibumike

                                                            I care. I always care about understanding cuisine. One can educate oneself on a given nation's foodways without subscribing to its traditions wholesale.

                                                            Edit: oops, old thread.

                                                            1. re: tatamagouche

                                                              That's OK ... I wouldn't have come across this thread myself if folks like you hadn't revived it. Heh.

                                                              I think discussions about Italian-American (or American-Italian)(http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7183... ) versus Italian versus taste versus "authenticity" [that word again!] is interesting - in a similar way to the disputes between Chinese-American vs Chinese cuisine [in all its regional variations].

                                                              I myself dislike a honking big chicken breast on a plate sitting on a pile of pasta, or even besides it. I don't mind a chicken entree (say, chicken cacciatore or rosemary dark meat chicken) on a separate dish with some pasta in some sort of innocuous sauce as a side on a separate plate, especially if they are flavorful enough and don't clash violently with each other. :-)

                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                Absolutely, which is why a fellow writer-friend of mine has come to prefer the term "traditional" to "authentic."

                                                                Never really thought about it until now, but in all my trips to Italy (8), I don't remember ever ordering chicken. I did love a Sicilian pal's pollo in bianco, but other than that...

                                                          2. In my part of Italy chicken is rarely found on any menu and never on pasta. BUT why shouldn't chicken and pasta be part of the same dish. I'm sure it could be very tasty and just because Italians don't do it, it doesn't mean there's something wrong..........after all it would seem that neither pasta nor chickens originated in Italy.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: coombe

                                                              Thank You Coombe ! It's abot time someone stopped worrying about committing some culinary disgrace against the Italians. I mean, how often do we have to hear "Well, I'm 100% Italian (even though 6 generations of the posters family are from Newark) and we would never 1. put cheese on seafood 2. Eat meat with our pasta course 3. Drink wine from California............................ Take it easy Vito, this is America and we are free to eat and drink as we please ! And to our friends in Italy, Mangia as you like as well !

                                                              1. re: TonyO

                                                                haha...great! I get annoyed when people are like you said, 6 generations away from the mother country, yet talk about themselves like they got off the boat yesterday. I call myself swiss...even though I was born here...but at least I have a passport and have lived there.

                                                            2. First, I'd like to say that don giovanni above on seafood speaks with reason and the proper balance - food traditions arise for a reason - often a biochemical reason - and not arbitrarily, and should be observed for "public consumption", and if one really likes something that violates the tradition, one should go ahead and enjoy it, but not necessarily subject someone else to it. Cheese and seafood... oh, don't get me started on that one. (I remember the Emeril episode!) As to shapes of paste with different sauces, it actually does make sense regarding adherence to the pasta shape, feel in the mouth, etc. That said, yes, Italians can be a bit doctrinnaire on these points.

                                                              My Italian culinary roots are in Friuli, so chicken (and, for that matter, pasta) didn't figure prominently, but the first time I encountered chicken *on* pasta, I was bemused. Then upset. I really dislike the texture combination. When I mentioned having had chunks of chicken on my pasta to my culinary nonna, I recall her face being a spectrum of confusion, calculation, and disgust. To my mind, she wasn't wrong. The problem goes back to the balance of texture and shape. I've had a piemontese sauce of chicken livers that was fantastic, but it was on a short, broad noodle (I forget the local name) that supported the texture of the liver. So too things like boar or duck ragu: what is the noodle. Surely not capellini! Chicken itself seems, in my direct experience and in my reading, to be a thoroughly North American twist worth avoiding.

                                                              14 Replies
                                                              1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                Yes, I agree. I don't really know what the Anglo-Saxon (British are guilty of this too) obsession with chicken is really as most of the meat is pretty bland and in my opinion too dry to enjoy.

                                                                My mother always used to say that a good old boiled hen gave your teeth something to work on but you just can't buy boiling chickens any more, at least not in Southern England where I have spent most of my life.

                                                                Could the pasta you mention be pappardelle, maltagliati, lasagnette?

                                                                1. re: coombe

                                                                  Interesting topic! I just returned from a trip to Florence, Arezzo, and Rome, and found that the only time I had pasta with seafood served with any cheese was in Rome: spaghetti with fresh anchovies and pecorino appeared on several menus. It worked for me when I tried it!

                                                                  1. re: sashimi73

                                                                    Hmmm, anchovy and pecorino are both strong flavours and so appear to balance each other. I can see the argument for not having the flavourful cheese overpower the delicate taste of white fish or seafood such as shrimp.

                                                                    Americans do seem to like cheese on just about everything. However, it does seem that the cheese most often used is of a bland variety. Cheese on chicken anyone? To each his own gout, I suppose.

                                                                    I wonder if Italian cuisine has a prohibition against the use of other dairy products in combination with fish and seafood? Are shrimp, for instance, ever served in a cream sauce?

                                                                    1. re: mrbozo

                                                                      Shrimp in a cream sauce? Well, I have had langoustine risotto made with cream in Sardinia.

                                                                      As for chicken and cheese, Pollo alla Valdostana, is a chicken fillet covered is Adostano cheese and cooked in the overn - delicious.

                                                                      1. re: mrbozo

                                                                        I think butter and shellfish is allowed

                                                                        1. re: mrbozo

                                                                          Not to say that seafood and cheese is by definition wonderful--in most cases I don't care for the combo. But, it IS just a matter of taste and habit. I don't think there is anything "transcendental" about a rule against cheese and seafood. A favorite Chilean dish is "Machas a la parmesana" (razor clams with melted parmesan)--the cheese with seafood is not just a US thing.

                                                                      2. re: coombe

                                                                        As I recall, the name of the noodle was different, but it was much like pappardelle.

                                                                        Your comment brought to mind my culinary nonna, again. She would boil a capon with vegetables for dinner, then use the resulting broth to make soup for the following day's lunch. There would be very little meat in the soup, which was fine, because it was "fleshed out" with accini de pepe (I called them 'snowballs' as a child), and a sprinkling of parmigiano. Sometimes a beaten egg would turn it into stracciatella. My God, it was good.

                                                                        1. re: coombe

                                                                          I love chicken - but then it is very French. But it must be REAL chicken, which is not so cheap. Sometimes we are able to get organic chickens for a very good price from a farmer we know. In Italy, one often sees chickens roasting at rosticcerie; I have certainly never encountered that horror, the "boneless chicken breast" there, though I have seen it in French supermarkets.

                                                                          In general, I don't like meat sauces on pasta. Sure, they can be authentic, but are overused outside the Peninsula. Most pasta I've eaten in Italy has been very simply dressed in a light tomato sauce, in bianco, with various herbs etc.

                                                                          Some of "the rules" are arbitrary, but many are there to discourage excess and favour better digestion. In many countries, milk or milk drinks are just for breakfast, so the cappuccino rule is not strange at all.

                                                                          1. re: coombe

                                                                            you can get boiling hens in a Kosher butcher in Southern England. Chicken soup is made from boilers.

                                                                          2. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                            Thank you pangolin, this is exactly the answer I was looking for! The look on your nonna's face says it all. Now, being a contrary American, I feel like I should try to come up with a traditional-tasting and delicious chicken pasta dish that would bear absolutely no resemblance to the Olive Garden.

                                                                            As far as dairy and seafood, I mentioned an excellent salmon cream sauce above, and I think the mild taste of cream can be a much better combination with seafood than a more pungent cheese.

                                                                            While I don't put cheese on seafood pasta, there are some tasty dishes that combine the two -- seafood quesadillas, for example. And don't stuffed mussels, oysters, etc. have parmesan cheese, or is it more of a pesto without cheese?

                                                                            1. re: Chowpatty

                                                                              There's a Lidia Bastianich recipe for a shrimp and leek pasta and she instructs to serve it with cheese.

                                                                              1. re: izzizzi

                                                                                I make grilled shrimp and vegetables (peppers onions zucchini) marinated in and basted w/red wine vinaigrette. I've made this for years and everyone loves
                                                                                it. Once we had leftovers after the party and the next day I put it all in a bowl w/some linguini and then at the last minute decided to add some feta cheese (the no cheese w/seafood was vaguely nagging somewhere in the back of my mind) This dish is probably bastardized many times over but people sure go crazy over it; even my foodie friends, even my chef friends...

                                                                                1. re: cherrylime

                                                                                  i've frequently had greek dishes with shrimp and feta. (no pasta though.)

                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                    I don't know if I prefer it w/the pasta or not it was more the need to main-dishify something and to stretch out leftovers a little..Pasta's great for that..

                                                                          3. For what it is worth, I looked through the pasta section of both The Silver Spoon and Marcella's Essentials and found no pasta dishes w/ chicken - the closest thing was pasta with chicken livers. Interestingly, Marcella dedicates seven pages to the subject of which sauces to serve with which pastas (a subject discussed below).

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                              In "Marcella Says..." she offers "Blasut's Chicken Thigh Pasta Sauce." It is made with ground thigh meat, which is not the same as putting a dried out breast on top of a bowl of pasta. It is much like a Bolognese or ragu.

                                                                            2. How about Chicken Cacciatore, it is usually served over some kind of pasta. I dont know if it is really an Italian invention or not but I would bet plenty of real Italians do like it.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: malibumike

                                                                                Chicken cacciatora is not normally served with pasta. However, I can't imagine it tasting bad. The only thing I can't work out, is how and what type of pasta. Do you pull the meat off the bones first and then stir the sauce into the pasta? Do you use spaghetti or short pasta? I'm just curious.

                                                                                1. re: coombe

                                                                                  I know whan my wife makes it, she serves the chicken, say a thigh, over wide noodles with the sauce over everything.

                                                                                2. re: malibumike

                                                                                  chicken cacciatore is very italian....translated it means chicken in the style of the hunters wife..and i believe it is served over pasta or risotto...but this might be the one chicken and pasta dish well know as italian

                                                                                3. The american fascination with Chicken, especially the boneless/skinless breast is baffling to me. Unless you are buying your chickens whole from a local farm, I think its pretty much just a winged rat. So called "free range" means nothing any more as there are now something like 17 classifications for marketing the bland bird. Why with all the other delicious fowl out there to consume people constantly choose the winged rat and not even the tasty parts like the thigh or the liver or some perfectly roasted skin from a lovely farm raised creature. I cringe when i hear people say things like " I just can't eat anything on the bone". Supermarket chickens are the Kraft Singles of the poultry world. In my experience there just wasn't alot of chicken in Italy period. While in Piedmont we had wild chickens at the restaurant I was at, but these birds bore little resemblance to our grocery store fowl. I think most Italians would be found to eat more duck or pheasant than chicken. As for "Chicken Cacciatore" I believe I've read that it's just a hijacked version of Rabbit Cacciatore for americans who prefer winged rat to bunny. As for cheese and seafood, I had an exceptional linguini with smoked salmon cream and reggiano in Rome at Ceasarina, a venerable pasta shop. and I believe the traditional Lobster Thermador (I know, I know its not Italian) is bound with a Mornay sauce, essentially cream and Gruyere???All i know is that a lil gorgonzola with some garden tomato and steamed mussels tastes heavenly and if i had to choose between grocery store chicken and tofu I'd probably starve;)

                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Big Cicada

                                                                                    Actually, I disagree *somewhat* with Big Cicada's condemnation of chicken in principle, but I am lucky enough to have a family-owned butcher shop in my neighbourhood, and they provide some excellent chicken, so I am a bit spoiled, but I laugh at the characterisation of it as "winged rat". I don't know what their source is, but it's superior to most stuff in the supermarket. I do agree with BC's bewilderment at the preference for boneless, skinless breast, and will up the ante with my own at people who will pay inflated prices to purchase it in that condition rather than spending one minute to bone and skin it at home. I take it as evidence of industrial society's increasing alienation from its own provisioning. I think that if people actually understood that they were eating a once-living beast, most would still be omnivores, but have a greater respect for their food, and therefore not gorge themselves, NOT indulge in the obscenity that is food eating contests (a life was sacrificed so that someone could prove that they can consume 48+ ounces of beef without vomiting?!?). Sorry... a bit off topic, there. Back to fowl, I also agree that Italian regional cuisine emphasises other birds. I highly recommend a book, The Goose: History, Folklore, Ancient Recipes, which describes the renewed interest in goose production in northern Italy, especially Friuli.

                                                                                    As well, I agree with BC about thighs, and livers. I almost always use the thigh at home... so much more flavourful. As children, my sister and I used to fight over who would get the liver. I visited her a few weeks ago, and she grilled a spatchcocked chicken over coals. At the last minute, I season the liver (surprisingly large) with salt, pepper, and rosemary, and threw it on the grill. We're adults now, so we shared it. Her chicken is free-range, grain-fed, and raised locally, her butcher a friend of the producer: all very old school, a simple human chain from the producer to the consumer.

                                                                                    1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                      Agreed. There was a time not THAT long ago when most people and certainly ANYONE who cooked at home understood the basics of how to break down a whole bird or fish or basic small game. Certainly my mom, aunts, grandmothers and most of my cousins possess this skill, but I find in the servive biz comments like "I just don't want to see its face" " I don't want to think about my food having eyes" It really bums me out and i see it as a fundamental disconnect from source to plate. If something is gonna die for you to eat it you should dam sure be able to look it in the face.......Anyhoo....I could go on all day ...Thanx for the reading tip

                                                                                      1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                        Just to move this a step further, I wonder at America's aversion to rabbit. Maybe if more people were looking for rabbit and duck, the price could drop.

                                                                                        1. re: yayadave

                                                                                          Living as I do in an area with a huge Asian and Latino population, I can get either frozen or fresh rabbit any day of the week for about $7 a pound. That's not dirt cheap, but it's cheaper than steak...and as for duck, how about $3-$4/lb. for leg quarters? Which certainly proves your point, that sales volume does bring the prices down. It also helps, I think, that the the L.A. area has a fairly large number of live poultry houses, many of which also stock rabbits. Of course most of the frozen rabbits don't come from around here: a really large one from my neighborhood Latino market came from China, while the ones in the case down at our favorite Asian market are Buford's, from Gainesville, GA! Go figure...

                                                                                          I haven't spent enough time in Italy to be an authority on the subject of this thread, but I do remember a holiday dinner in a home in Puglia: the pasta course was handmade orecchiette (I got to watch our hostess make it, too!) served with ragu out of a deep pot, after which a beef roll was fished out of that same pot, and sliced and served as the next course, with more ragu passed in a gravy boat. After I returned home of course I was on an Italian-cooking tear for a while, one of my favorite dishes being turkey cutlets crumbed and fried, then you cut one cutlet into very thin slices and serve that in a marinara sauce over linguini, then top the others with slices of mozzarella and broil them briefly and serve as the main course. It drove my friends crazy that I insisted on doing this in two courses instead of combining everything in what was, to them, the obviously reasonable way.

                                                                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                            Re the price of rabbit per pound vs. the price of steak per pound - I find I just get so little meat out of a rabbit - I'll spend $25 on a rabbit and end up dealing w/lots of little bones and not v. much meat. I do like the flavor, but to me, the price/reward ration just isn't there. I'm sure I don't end up w/ a pound of rabbit meat.

                                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                              i can buy a rabbit for about $7 in chinatown, often on sale for less, like $1.99 per pound. it's delicate and delicious and i love cooking it. with a flavorful slow braise, the meat falls off the bone. i much prefer that to a slab of beef.

                                                                                      2. re: Big Cicada

                                                                                        The fascination is this: the chicken industry in this country in this century has created a bland, easy to prepare protein souce that is readily available and affordable to almost ALL Americans. Think about how frequently most people consume chicken in this country compared to chicken consumption in most other countries and the compared to the past. Most people scarf down a chicken sandwich or chicken vindaloo without a second thought. It used to be that cooking a bird was a special treat. When I was growing up in the late 60s and 70s there was no boneless chicken to be found in the supermarket. My mom used to make a chicken casserole w/ bone-in chicken that I have fond memories of. Now she makes it with boneless chicken and it's horrible - my dad doesn't want to eat anything off the bone. Most of us have become a bunch of princesses now who can barely cut our own food. The rest of us are a bunch of princesses who don't really understand that the majority can't afford the finer things in life.

                                                                                        1. re: suse

                                                                                          Apparently when Franklin Delano Roosevelt said "a chicken in every pot" it was a big deal--a real symbol of prosperity to attain. At that time eating chicken was at most a special sunday dinner type of food--it was not too common and expensive.

                                                                                          1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                            Herbert Hoover, but otherwise, good point.

                                                                                            1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                              There musta been a reason for someone to invent "city chicken."

                                                                                        2. Thinking about Italian chickens..... Many, many years ago, a rail strike marooned me at the train station in Ancona with another student, no train for another six hours. Fortunately, the restaurant was still open. We had a lovely spit-roasted chicken, a salad, a bottle of some local frizzante, and the starch was.... roasted potatoes.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                            Yes, roasted potatoes are the most typical starch to serve with spit-roasted poultry in Italy. A dinner I've enjoyed many times there. With exactly what you said: a slightly-fizzy white wine and of course a green or tomato salad. Yum. I studied in Perugia, which is actually not very far from Ancona.

                                                                                            1. re: lagatta

                                                                                              A fairly common Italian treatment calls for chunks of (beef, lamb, pork, chickn, lamb) roasted with flavorings, usually onion, garlic, herbs, wine, some tomato, and the resulting sauce served on a pasta first course. I've often made a chicken thigh sautee (herbs, garlic, wine, cherry tomatoes), with spaghetti tossed in the pan juices after the dish is done with the meat served after, a take off on rabbit in the style of Ischia.

                                                                                          2. Also, I wonder how many Italian pasta dishes pack the 1400 calories and nearly 100 grams of fat that are in the Macaroni Grill's chicken alfredo? I guess Americans would eat just this where Italians would eat two separate courses, but still...bleh.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: Chowpatty

                                                                                              I think even in the two seperate courses there wouldn't be that many calories. When I would visit my family in Italy most of the time we would have some type of pasta for lunch and then dinner would be grilled meat of some sort, fresh bread and a salad. Breakfast isn't really a big deal...melba toast or yogurt. I miss those meals.

                                                                                            2. Of course you can do whatever you want - there's a whole other thread on "strange combinations".

                                                                                              However, I've overheard Americans order that they want their pasta and meat served mixed together while dining in Italy. I guess they never heard the phrase "when in Rome..."? Heck, with that reasoning, why not just throw the antipasto and dessert on top. All goes in the same place anyway, no? Drives me crazy when folks just don't care to respect the culture of whatever country they're visiting.

                                                                                              I personally enjoy having the pasta separate. It helps me enjoy the pasta (and is it a gene that ensures every Italian restaurant nails the al dente?). And pasta is there to be enjoyed - spending a couple of bucks more for better pasta over the 69c/pound US supermarket special really does matter.

                                                                                              As far as the cappuccino thing goes, most decent restaurants in Italy now ask if you want a cuppuccino or espresso post-meal. Whether it's prepared as well as the morning capp is a different question (wife sent one back at Gusto just two weeks ago for being Starbucks hot with Starbucks quailty foam - IOO, disgusting).

                                                                                              However, behind the "tradition" of the morning-only capp is some actual science/biology. For the most part, only those folks of Northern European/Northern Asian heritage are genetically "designed" to drink more than a cup of cow/goat/sheep milk daily. As a generalizaiton, most non-Northern folks don't tolerate non-human milk beyond perhaps a cup daily. The Italians chose to develop a tradition of drinking their allowance early in the day via cappuccino. That's why they'll generally tell you that drinking an afternoon/evening cappuccino is "bad for digestion".

                                                                                              For those who don't have the tolerance issue, have at it. The Italians really don't care - most baristas would actually prefer pulling a late capp than an Americano (which is really an insult).

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                                I do very much have the tolerance issue. Can just barely get down the cappuccino (because I love it so much) - here at the Jean-Talon market (Montréal, in the traditional Italian district) I can get a cap with soya milk. Italians get most of their dairy and its nutritional and taste benefits through cheese, and in recent decades through yogourt, both of which are much more digestible than plan cow's milk (and many cheeses are goat's or ewe's milk, which is far more digestible than cow's).

                                                                                                In Italy, I'd often have the pasta (primo) and then a vegetable contorno as a secondo. Not necessarily strictly vegetarian, but not much meat. I was pleasantly surprised to find upon my last trip to Italy (last summer) that lots of people eat wholegrain pasta there now too. And they cook it properly - wholegrain is easy to overcook and turns into that horrible healthfood stodge. Every dish of it I had in Italy was delicious. This is very important for anyone who has to eat low GI.

                                                                                                One thing I DON'T miss from living in Italy is the breakfast - especially the horrid sweet cornettos. I don't eat a big breakfast either, but had to make sure I could get a bit of protein, and not sweet stuff.

                                                                                              2. Although you were talking specifically about Italians and your original post only asked whether Italians ate that sort of stuff, I sort of wanted to address some of those other posts later on and think it would be interesting to look at this from another culture's point of view.

                                                                                                I've had noodles (rice and wheat) with sauce and pieces of meat (whether chicken pieces, beef slices, etc.) at home and in Chinese restaurants (I believe I can directly compare this to an Italian pasta dish with sauce or ragout). Oddly enough, it's not considered aberrant or bad. Perhaps we simply are not as advanced as the Italians in terms of culinary rules and know-how... I mean, most of China doesn't even eat cheese!

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                  Perhaps the fact that Chinese do incorporate chicken into noodle dishes and the Italians do not mix chicken and pasta is due to differences in digestive enzymes between the two peoples. ;)

                                                                                                  If it comes down to rules affecting digestion and the natural order of eating noodles/pasta with/without chicken the Chinese would seem to be clear "winners"; after all, they've been doing it longer and are still here, and still serving it up in all manner of tasty combinations.

                                                                                                  I'm inclined to accept the explanation of historical economic necessity mentioned above by a poster as the raison d'etre for the separation of pasta and meat into courses.

                                                                                                  1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                    I never actually had noodles dishes with chicken in them anywhere in China while I lived there (3 years). Chicken was always a special treat and it was usually roast chicken or kung pao. That doesn't mean that it doesn't exist or that it isn't a good thing, it's just that i don't think it's especially common.

                                                                                                    1. re: suse

                                                                                                      In Hong Kong this will be more prevalent, possibly due to the higher general wealth of the area. Stir fried noodles or noodles with sauce will have visible pieces of meat (such as chicken) in it. Of course, it's more commonly pork or maybe even beef.

                                                                                                    2. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                      I like that thinking, Blueicus, though I somewhat disagree.
                                                                                                      I know very little abour "real" Chinese cooking, but I think there is a difference here. When I have Chinese dishes with big-ish pieces of meat in with the noodles, it seems like there is normally a broth that takes the meat flavor through the whole dish. Then, even if it deconstructs on my plate (into meat next to noodles), at least the flavors remain blended. Also, the Chinese seem to be pretty gentle about the total amount of meat in a dish. When people put chicken on pasta, the flavors *usually* seem to separate or conflict. That's why the meat sauces work better. The flavor gets through the whole dish.
                                                                                                      I tried imagining using the Italian ingredients and preparing it "Chinese style," and it doesn't sound very appetizing, to me. I think the type of noodles and the flavors involved make a difference.

                                                                                                    3. as has been mentioned, the point of the "rules" is to make a good dish easily, and that is easy on digestion.
                                                                                                      when the rules changed with the immigrants that came at the turn of the 20th century, indigestion from "italain" food was born.
                                                                                                      believe me, from my experiences cooking with an italian grandmother, less is more. the point is to taste the primary ingredients, and to use good quality ingredients so that what you're eating always tastes good. throwing a slab of chicken onto a starch, much less deep frying and covering with melted cheese and sauce as well, is not cooking with an easy hand. i imagine lots of those italian-american recipes were created by men that didn' know how to cook.

                                                                                                      1. I can't handle cheese on seafood, but the 'chicken over pasta' issue is another thing. Whether it's 'normal' in Italian Cuisine or not, a local South OC, CA Italian resto near me has 10 chicken dishes on their menu, with 4 of them having the chicken 'over pasta'. One of my favorites is called Chicken Pizzaiola (garlic & Marinara, with mushrooms and olives, in a great tomato sauce). It may not be 'correct' or traditional, but it's GOOD!

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: don giovanni

                                                                                                            There are actually 5 dishes: two over rigatoni, two over fettuccini, and one over linguini.

                                                                                                        1. One thing about changing recipes and ignoring traditional rules for dishes brought from the old country is simply that the circumstances that caused the rules do not exist in the US. That's because of a change in place. But also the rules may no longer be necessary in the "old country" because over time the circumstances have changed. The rules are only followed for tradition's sake.

                                                                                                          Think about Mario's meat balls. He makes enormous meat balls, bigger than I have ever eaten in the US. He makes them this way to be served as a separate course from the pasta because "back in the day" meat was not available daily on the home table. It was a special occasion and should be celebrated as a separate course. Here we can get ground beef, veal, and pork 24/7. We make smaller meat balls, cook them in the sauce (gravy) and serve them over the pasta. Because we can. And you know what? Today they can do this in Italy also. So they continue to follow the tradition, without it being really necessary.

                                                                                                          And in this scenario nobody is wrong.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: yayadave

                                                                                                            "Think about Mario's meat balls. He makes enormous meat balls, bigger than I have ever eaten in the US. He makes them this way to be served as a separate course from the pasta because "back in the day" meat was not available daily on the home table."

                                                                                                            Mario is half Italian from Seattle. What he makes IS in the U.S. Mario is trying to cook Italian food for Americans. Italians do not eat meatballs with pasta now, not because they can't, but because it doesn't go with the cuisine. Meatballs are heavy, pasta is heavy. It is better to make this two courses. Also, mixing everything up, at least in terms of european-style food, is an american tradition. Most countries like to be able to eat one thing at a time. as I mention earlier, italians cook with an easy hand, this business of everything and anything on the plate is contrary to the nature of italian cooking.

                                                                                                          2. Spent a short time there and ate at restaurants for every meal and don't recall seeing chicken in pasta...lots of seafood in pasta though. I also remember pasta as being light and without the heavy cream sauce like those in America.

                                                                                                            1. So, it seems that people in Italy do not mix chicken and pasta but people in the rest of the world do. And everyone should be happy that order is maintained. ;)

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: mrbozo

                                                                                                                I think a big part of the reason why we see people/chefs/restaurants putting meat into their pasta dishes in the US and not so much in Europe is that at least since the post-war era (i.e. the '50's and on), there was a penchant for one-dish dinners. Hotdish, hotdish, hotdish! I've always read these sorts of dishes as the hotdishization of Italian food. Home cooks have never really done courses, and it was economical to dump the meat into a casserole to stretch it out.

                                                                                                                So in addition to what others have said about why Italians do what they do (I too have never seen chicken in pasta while in Italy), I think part of the difference is that we Americans love the one-dish wonder.

                                                                                                                1. re: pgokey

                                                                                                                  What is a hotdish? Is it another name for a casserole?

                                                                                                                  1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                    Google does it again!


                                                                                                                    "Hotdish is a variety of baked casserole that typically contains a starch, a meat or other protein, and a canned and/ or frozen vegetable, mixed together with canned soup.[1] The dish is popular in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota."

                                                                                                              2. Food from home cooks in Italy varies from that which is served in restaurants, something else to consider.
                                                                                                                Though even with a protein simmered in a sauce; in our home the sauce was served over the pasta and then the meat was brought out afterwards.
                                                                                                                I’m second generation and my grandparents were from Southern Italy, Casalduni in the Campania Region.

                                                                                                                1. See boneless, skinless chicken chunks or strips on pasta (or really anything) on a restaurant menu is a bit of a litmus test for me. If I see it on a menu, I know the place is no good.

                                                                                                                  1. I'm not a big fan of chicken slabs on pasta. I will order chicken parmigiana once in a while, but that's all about the guilty treat of deep-fired chicken breast and cheese. The fact that pasta is an accompaniment is tolerated. :)

                                                                                                                    1. Yes. I do, and I'm Italian.

                                                                                                                      1. i'm pretty sure that a poor farmer in italy has at sometime had chicken and pasta together when that was all he had to eat

                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                                                                          ... or because he likes it like that.

                                                                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                                                                              I think we have invented more inviolate rules for Italian cooking in the US than there ever were/are in Italy.

                                                                                                                        2. I am Italian. "chicken with penne, chicken alfredo" it's an Italian-American concoctions.

                                                                                                                          1. In James Beard's Pasta book, he has recipes for about everything with pasta. I'm Italian, and I
                                                                                                                            say go for it. Paisanos raise chickens and add them to many recipes.

                                                                                                                            1. No, they don't make those recipes. But poultry and pasta are not total strangers. In traditional recipes, you are more likely to find the broth and giblets used with pasta and the meat served separately. Duck is more likely to be paired with pasta than chicken. As for chicken alfredo, Italians would not recognize even "alfredo sauce" for pasta, since the original Alfredo's recipe consists of only parmigiano and butter.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: mbfant

                                                                                                                                And one still savoury Italian American tradition is to do small chicken pieces with garlic, onion, herbs, potato, tomato, and a little wine al forno, which produces a fairly dense, oily, and tasty sugo from the bottom of the pan--into which freshly cooked bucatini or spaghetti can be swirled. Served as a first course, with grated pecorino, the chickeny pasta resembles a similar Ischian rabbit stew, coniglio al'ischitana, that sauces a primo of spaghetti. Arthur Schwartz's Naples at Table has a good recipe.