HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Adding chicken to a pasta dish -- how to?

classact2575 Jul 27, 2011 10:57 AM

Hi everyone-
Newbie here. :) I have a recipe from CookingLight that I *love* -- it's called Farafelle with Creamy Mushroom sauce, and it's absolutely delicious. (link here: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/farfa...


Since pasta = carbs and not much protein, I usually end up adding chicken to the recipe. I've cut up chicken tenders and sauteed them with the onions/shallots, but inevitably the chicken never really picks up much flavor and tends to be dry in the final product. I might be overcooking the chicken, but it's difficult to test each bite-sized piece to see if they're cooked all the way through. :)

Any suggestions on how to cook the chicken so it actually tastes decent and doesn't dry out?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. e
    escondido123 RE: classact2575 Jul 27, 2011 11:02 AM

    Sounds like you are overcooking them. I would suggest not cutting them up but sauteing them whole and pulling out when they are still quite pink. Slice and then add them to the pasta dish where they will finish cooking. PS An instant read thermometer can do wonders for knowing when chicken is done but not overcooked.

    1. srsone RE: classact2575 Jul 27, 2011 11:15 AM

      i agree with escondido..it sound like your overcooking the chicken...
      it shouldnt take very long to saute pretty small pieces of chicken..
      and when are u adding it to the pasta dish?

      what kind of flavor do u want to add to the chicken?
      i would think if u spice the chicken to much ..its going to get somewhat lost once u add it the creamy mushroom sauce or conversely its going to spice up the whole dish...

      and just adding chicken to this dish?
      or any pasta dish?

      1. chowser RE: classact2575 Jul 27, 2011 11:17 AM

        I would cut into same bite sized pieces, season, and sautee but remove them (if you need to check doneness, check one of the larger pieces by cutting in half but try to have them close in size). Then, in the caramelized chicken remains in the pan, add onions and mushrooms, etc and sautee and continue. Add the chicken back in w/ the pasta. Not Cooking Light-like but I'd probably cook up some bacon and then cook the chicken in the bacon fat... Add chicken and bacon back in.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chowser
          classact2575 RE: chowser Jul 27, 2011 11:25 AM

          Yes, I'm one of those weird, strange people that doesn't care much for bacon. Otherwise it sounds good. :)

          1. re: chowser
            masha RE: chowser Jul 28, 2011 06:25 AM

            I have a vegetarian based pasta recipe with a mushroom sauce to which I add chicken, and I use the same method that Chowser describes. Sautee the chicken in bite-size pieces til done (or even slightly underdone as they will continue to cook a bit while they rest), then remove from the pan. Continue with the rest of the recipe, using the same pan to cook your aromatics, etc. Add the chicken back in when you combine the cooked pasta and sauce.

          2. c
            ChiliDude RE: classact2575 Jul 27, 2011 11:49 AM

            I like chicken thighs and drum sticks as opposed to breast meat because the leg parts have more flavor and do not dry out as easily as breast meat. When I make chicken paprikash, I bake the boneless thighs for about 25-30 minutes at 325 F. When the meat is cooled so that it can be handled, I break up the thighs by hand.

            Prepare your pasta (farfalle) according to the package instructions. Add whatever 'condimento' (my wife calls the red stuff 'gravy'...to me it's sauce, 'salsa di pomodoro') you usually use to the drained pasta, then the shredded meat and mix well. Serve

            My genes are not Italian, my wife's genes are Italian. That's why there have been 51+ years of condimento bickering.

            Vivi, ama, ridi e mangia bene! (Live, love, laugh and eat well!). The verb tenses are imperative for those who think I don't know my basic Italian syntax.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ChiliDude
              mike0989 RE: ChiliDude Jul 4, 2013 02:05 PM

              I'm with you on thighs. Pretty much fool proof as to not getting a dry texture.

            2. ROCKLES RE: classact2575 Jul 27, 2011 02:35 PM

              i assume you do not mean frozen chicken tenders, but the breasts sliced thinly?
              I think I would bake the chicken, or saute in like ingredients as the sauce you are making until close to being done but not completely cooked, then allow it to finish cooking in the sauce.
              better choice for juicy would be as chilidude says: bake pieces of chicken and then shred

              Oh and by the way--welcome to CH

              1. Bada Bing RE: classact2575 Jul 27, 2011 02:53 PM

                By chicken tenders, you mean raw strips from that inner portion of the breast, the ones with the tendon through them?

                Anyway, looking at that recipe, I'd encourage you to marinate the chicken bits in some flavorings you want (oil, salt, etc), then saute them very briefly in the pan (not to completely cook), and then remove the chicken and do the recipe as directed. Just add the chicken in at a later stage, maybe just before the pasta is added, so as not to overcook the chicken. Residual heat will cook the chicken.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Bada Bing
                  jjjrfoodie RE: Bada Bing Jul 27, 2011 03:10 PM



                  I saute teh whole breast or tenders as one whole piece, seasoning with salt and pepper or whatever spices or rubs i feel would complement the dish before cooking.

                  Saute in a little olive oil or butter til browned, and I check finished meat with a instant read probe and get to 160 or so for chicken since you will be adding it back in and cooking slightly more. If just warming than cook to 165.
                  Let rest, tented, then slice and add at final step of pasta prep.

                  I;ve never had a problem.

                  1. re: Bada Bing
                    classact2575 RE: Bada Bing Jul 28, 2011 06:31 AM

                    Yep, the raw strips, not the scary pre-cooked Perdue stuff.

                    Dumb question -- how should "not completely cooked" look? Usually when I do them in the pan, the outsides turn white, while the insides are still pink... and then of course by the time they're completely white, they're overcooked.

                    1. re: classact2575
                      Bada Bing RE: classact2575 Jul 28, 2011 12:28 PM

                      Well, if they're the chicken portion I'm thinking of, they'll cook more or less instantly. Those strips are very thin. So I wouldn't overthink the "undercooking" stage. Just make sure that the strips are not already cooked to drying out by the time you remove them from the first saute step, because they'll cook a bit further just sitting to the side, plus perhaps a bit more when added back into the dish.

                  2. roxlet RE: classact2575 Jul 27, 2011 03:45 PM

                    When I add chicken to a pasta dish, I usually slice a boneless chicken breast thinly, briefly marinate in olive oil, salt, pepper, some oregano and the grill quickly in a grill pan. Just before I am about to add the pasta, I put the chicken in the sauce, add the pasta and serve.

                    1. k
                      kalam2 RE: classact2575 Jul 4, 2013 04:52 AM

                      cook the chicken first, remove, and then put it back in.

                      1. b
                        baboon RE: classact2575 Jul 4, 2013 05:13 AM

                        don't use chicken breast is the number one rule

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: baboon
                          fldhkybnva RE: baboon Jul 4, 2013 12:43 PM

                          I use chicken breast all the time for these kinds of things. I usually dice them ahead of time or at least into tender size pieces, sear a few minutes each side, throw in a tbsp or so of broth and let simmer just a few minutes to cook through and they are always moist and good to throw in other dishes where the chicken is just an addition.

                          1. re: fldhkybnva
                            c oliver RE: fldhkybnva Jul 4, 2013 12:50 PM

                            When I cook pounded chicken breasts, I only cook a "few minutes each side." Period. I'm surprised yours are moist.

                            1. re: c oliver
                              fldhkybnva RE: c oliver Jul 4, 2013 01:07 PM

                              I don't usually bother to pound so they are thicker than a general cutlet or pounded breast. The extra few minutes with broth somehow keeps them moist as they cook through. It works for me in a pan or the oven if I use full breasts.

                        2. b
                          baboon RE: classact2575 Jul 4, 2013 05:15 AM

                          also, chicken livers with tagliatelle can be good, and they can be left quite pink, so there's not the same problem

                          1. p
                            pedalfaster RE: classact2575 Jul 4, 2013 12:59 PM

                            A little bit off topic, but I wondered if anyone had experimented with adding tofu as a protein source to the above-mentioned recipe?

                            I was just thinking that it might not suffer from the same "dryness" problems as white chicken meat, while still adding some desired protein.

                            Show Hidden Posts