I was intrigued by the use of Pastina as I had never tried any before and didn't know what it was, and had never noticed it in the grocery store. We always head for the angel hair pasta, the elbow macaroni, bowties, etc. This pasta is right there with everything else and the one here is made up of the teensiest little stars. I had to put my reading glasses on to see the shape, they are so small.
After cooking the pastina you saute the chicken for three minutes in olive oil and then add the chopped onion, garlic and cook for another five minutes (full recipe below all the photos).
I did cut the chicken up into smaller pieces than the one inch chunks, only because I don't generally like 'chunks'.
After cooking, this all goes into a large mixing bowl to which you have already added the cooked, drained pastina. Next add the canned tomatoes, mozarella cheese, parsley (or as in this case the cilantro), salt and pepper. Then you mix it all up.
You pat it all into a previously buttered 8 x 8 inch baking dish. In a small bowl you mix the breadcrumbs with Parmesan cheese. I didn't have any fresh Parmesan on hand so I used Kraft's brand, the kind that comes in the tall round container, which I always seem to have in the door of my refrigerator. Put the breadcrumb mixture on top of the Pastina mixture. The recipe calls for dotting the one tablespoon of butter over the top, but I melted my butter and mixed it in with the breadcrumbs before adding it to the top of the dish.
I served it with the corn on the cob and the tomatoes bought from the Farmer's Market at Lake Anne. Gregg and I gave the dish a big thumb's up and agreed that the corn and the tomatoes were a very nice addition. Happy to say that they were delicious.
Later on for dessert we each had half of a small Casaba Melon that we also bought from the market. It was light and refreshing and you guessed it, delicious. Yay for the farmer's market!
One added note: this would also make a lovely vegetarian dish, minus the chicken of course.
Now for the recipe:
Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina
By Giada De Laurentiis
From the Show, Everyday Italian Episode: Kids' Cooking Class.
Cooking time: 40 mins.
Yield: 4 servings
1 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup cubed chicken breast (1-inch cubes)
1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
Place the mixture in a buttered 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
There were left-overs from this dish and we got five servings instead of four. The day after it seemed even more flavorful, and what was better I didn't have to cook except for the poached egg that I put on top. I also added a slice of toast. For those of you who like poached eggs, it was a delicious combination and made for a nice, easy supper. Another two thumbs up from us.