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15th May
written by Steph

Spicy Mediterranean Pasta

This week has been ridiculously long, so I sent an email out yesterday afternoon to some friends suggesting a casual get together of cocktails and a light dinner. I thought it would be nice to catch up in a low-stress setting.  Now, the weather here in Nashville has been kind of wonky – chilly and brisk one day, only to be muggy and gross the next – and yesterday was definitely a case of the latter.  So I had to come up with a dinner that would be satisfying but not heavy and overly rich.  So, I came up with this spicy pasta dish, and it wound up being a huge hit.  As you can see from the pictures, it looks quite elegant and fancy schmancy if you plate it on a platter and serve it family style, but I promise it’s super simple.

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 1 lb of skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • ground coriander seeds
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced (not minced)
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 small red peppers, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled and roughly seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 16 oz can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 16 oz can of artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • ½ tbsp of smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 cup of vodka
  • zest and juice from ½ lemon
  • feta cheese
  • fresh basil
  • salt and pepper
  • spaghetti noodles (or other noodle of your choice)
  1. In a large pot/skillet over low-medium heat, pour in your olive oil and then put your garlic and red onions.  The goal is to cook them so they’re soft, but not brown.  Also, get a pot of salted water on high heat so it will be ready for the pasta when the time comes.
  2. After about 5 minutes or so, add in your red pepper and cook for another 5 – 7 minutes.
  3. While the red pepper is cooking, sprinkle your chicken breasts on both sides with some salt, pepper, coriander, and splash of olive oil.  If you have a grill of some sorts, crank the heat up to about 400º, and start cooking your chicken. If you don’t have a grill, you can simply cook the chicken in another pan with the burner set to high heat (or you could broil it in the oven).
  4. Once the red pepper has begun to soften, throw in your tomatoes and crank the heat up to medium-high.  Sprinkle in your smoked paprika, and also add in a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper (we’re talking at least a tbsp of black pepper).  When the tomatoes begin to release their juices, add in the vodka and let the mixture simmer.  Over at your chicken station, flip your chicken over and cook the other side.
  5. By now you should have boiling water – add in your pasta and cook according to directions.  Also, add your garbanzo beans to the sauce and stir.  Sprinkle in your red pepper flakes.
  6. Once chicken is finished cooking, remove from grill/pan/oven and slice into bite-sized chunks.  Then add it into the sauce, along with the artichoke hearts. Add in your lemon zest and juice, and stir well.
  7. To serve in dramatic fashion, drain your pasta and place it on a large platter.  Then pour the sauce over top.  Finally, garnish with feta cheese and fresh basil leaves (tear them with your hands, rather than chopping them so as to avoid bruising them).

Fancy or casual, it's up to you!

My whole goal with this recipe was to create something that was light but nourishing, and I do think this dish fit the bill.  The sauce is very light and bright in its flavors, so while you might not normally think pasta dishes can be light, this one definitely was.  All of the flavors melded really nicely together, and the acidity of the lemon played off nicely against the spiciness of the red pepper flakes.  And the fresh basil makes the dish feel so wonderfully fresh and summery. You could of course switch this up in many different ways.  The chicken can easily be excluded for a vegetarian option, as the garbanzo beans offer nice protein. And heck, take out the cheese and I think you've got yourself a vegan meal!  You could also add in olives, capers, or sundried tomatoes if you had any of those items on hand.  I also really like the idea of sprinkling a bunch of arugula over top before serving, but one of our diners last night is not a fan of that green, so it was omitted.  Alternatively, you could also add in spinach in the last 2 – 3 minutes of cooking if you want more greens.  Honestly, with this pasta, the world is your oyster! This dish was a huge crowd pleaser, so if you’re thinking of doing some hot-weather entertaining this summer, please give it a try. Tony also thought that if you subbed in a shorter pasta (like fusili or penne) this would actually be something that could hold up to being served chilled, so keep that in mind if you have any picnic outings in your future.  I personally like how the spaghetti was all tangly, but of course you can use whichever pasta you prefer. Buon appetito!


  1. 05/15/2010

    Sounds and looks yummy! I had one of those weeks too but your solution sounds much better. Perhaps what I needed last night was friends and not Chipotle?? 🙂

  2. 05/15/2010

    Wow this looks so tasty! Will have to try it one of these days, for sure.

  3. 05/15/2010

    So true, this was a most delicious dish. Thanks for a lovely evening friends! I have a lot to measure up to on Thursday . . 😉

  4. 05/15/2010

    This looks fantastic! But I was a little confused by the recipe. Is the 1/8th cup of vodka to add to the sauce or to help ease the process for the cook?!!! :–)

  5. Yum, that looks delicious!

  6. 05/16/2010

    @ Frances: I’ve never eaten at a Chipotle, can you believe it? But I tend to think that friends must trump Chipotle!
    @ claire: Definitely a meal you can make for the hubby and kids! Super easy and wonderfully fresh!
    @ Trisha: I have no worries about Thursday – I know you will wow us, no matter what you serve! Your company is treat enough!
    @ rhapsody: I was swilling cocktails while cooking (the best way to cook!), so the vodka went right into the sauce… I was doing my best with champagne! 😉
    @ Kim: It was delicious!

  7. 05/17/2010

    I have a dinner to go to this coming weekend, and this would be the perfect thing to bring with me! I like that it’s filling, but not too rich. I think my friends would really enjoy this, so thanks for posting this great recipe!!

  8. 05/18/2010

    @ zibilee: if you do make this, let me know how it goes… I ate some cold yesterday and it was still really good! 😉

  9. Abby

    Best. Dinner. Ever. Thanks, S&T!

  10. 05/21/2010

    @ Abs: So glad you enjoyed it, friend! I guess I now owe you another dinner since I lost last night’s bet! 😉

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