Penne with Chicken in a Spicy Tomato Sauce

PennaThe credit for this recipe goes to my daughter, Jyoti. This Italian pasta, with an Indian twist, is a beautiful springtime dish. It is easy to prepare and requires only a few ingredients.

Many of my Indian friends in the U.S. have a special blend of spices called Telugu masala in their kitchen cabinets. I get my stash of Telugu masala from Aunty Absolom. It’s the best! In this recipe, I’ve given you the choice of using plain chilli powder or Telugu masala. You can adjust the amount to suit your taste.

A few points to remember when making this pasta dish. When cooking the penne, salt the water well. Since the penne will be cooked in the sauce again, cook it just shy of being completely done. There must be a bite to the penne. Italians call it al dente. You can use minced chicken or turkey breast for this recipe. Also, I try to buy the best spaghetti sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that I find. It makes a big difference! The brand of tomato sauce that I used for this recipe is Paesana and I bought it from Whole Foods.

Penne with Chicken in a Spicy Tomato Sauce
1 13.25 ounce box Barilla whole grain penne (cook to al dente using directions on the box)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ pound minced chicken breast
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
3 teaspoons chilli powder (or Telugu masala)
1 25 ounce jar of spaghetti sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)
2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley or spring onion

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the minced chicken and brown, gently breaking it up into bits with a wooden spoon. Add the onion and cook until light brown and tender. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the chilli power and saute for 30 seconds. Then add the spaghetti sauce, salt, and pepper. Turn the heat to low and cook for five minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the penne in a large pot to al dente. Use the directions on the box and make sure that you add enough salt while cooking the penne. Reserve two tablespoons of the cooking water, drain the penne and return it to the pot.  Add the sauce to the penne and toss over medium heat. Add the reserved cooking water and let the penne absorb some of the sauce. Remove from heat after two minutes. Garnish with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and parsley or spring onion. Serve with garlic bread and salad.

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