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Adding chicken to a pasta dish -- how to?

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?


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  1. 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. 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. 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

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

          1. re: chowser

            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. 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

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

            2. 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. 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



                  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

                    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

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

                      1. don't use chicken breast is the number one rule

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: baboon

                          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

                            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

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

                          1. 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.