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Easy Way to Cook Chicken Breasts for Inclusion in Pasta Dishes

by M.H. Dyer

Chicken adds flavor and protein to pasta dishes. You can add chicken to traditional favorites such as macaroni and cheese or make kid-pleasing, Italian-style pasta primavera with whimsical bowtie or wagonwheel noodles. Pasta dishes with juicy chicken breasts are versatile and make a full meal when paired with a vegetable or salad.

Tenderizing

Tenderizing chicken breasts involves breaking down the fibers of the chicken meat. To tenderize chicken, pound boneless breasts with a meat mallet or the handle of a table knife. Continue pounding the chicken, using a series of light taps, until the breast is about 1/2-inch thick. Placing the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap makes cleanup easier.

Seasoning

Seasoned flour adds flavor to chicken breasts, but more important, helps to seal in the juices. Start with a small amount of flour in a shallow dish. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add any fresh or dry herbs that complement your pasta, such as rosemary, basil, oregano, parsley or sage. If you prefer, add seasoned salt substitutes, garlic powder or dry salad dressing. Don't overdo the seasonings, as too much flavor may compete with the flavors in your pasta. Dredge the chicken breasts in the mixture so that each breast is evenly coated with a light dusting of seasoned flour.

Cooking

To cook chicken breasts, heat a small amount of butter, olive oil or canola oil in a heavy frying pan. When the oil and the pan are hot, add the chicken breasts and brown lightly, then place the lid on the pan. Turn the burner to low, then set a kitchen timer for 10 minutes. Leave the skillet undisturbed until the timer rings.

Temperature

Turn off the burner. Set the timer and let the chicken sit undisturbed for an additional 10 minutes. Don't give in to temptation to remove the lid. After 10 minutes, use a meat thermometer to check if the chicken is finished cooking. The chicken is done if the meat thermometer registers 170 F. If the meat isn't done, cover the skillet and return it to the burner. Cook the chicken for an additional five minutes and check the temperature again.

Finishing

Remove the chicken breast from the skillet and let it rest for a few minutes. Shred the meat or cut it into cubes. Store the cooked chicken breast in the refrigerator until you're ready to add it to your pasta dish. Add chicken at the end of the pasta dish preparation so it doesn't overcook.

About the Author

M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.

Photo Credits

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