This chicken mozzarella pasta with an onion-butter tomato sauce is just oh-so-tasty!
I read about Marcella Hazan’s onion and butter tomato sauce technique and knew I just had to try it out. I browned the cut sides of the onions first just because I prefer the depth of flavor and added a touch of oregano and crushed red pepper.
You may wish to remove the onion and garlic halves and save them for another use, or, you can send them through a food processor and add them back to the sauce to add a bit more thickness. I chose the latter and I was really happy with the final product!
Skill Level: Easy
Time to Make: 45 minutes (15 minutes inactive)
INGREDIENTS FOR CHICKEN MOZZARELLA PASTA
16 ounces tubular pasta such as rigatoni, penne, or ziti
2 chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise
Slick of olive oil
5 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, trimmed, peeled and cut in half
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 teaspoon dry oregano
Crushed red pepper to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
10 fresh basil leaves, half torn and half thinly sliced into ribbons
4 slices mozzarella, preferably fresh
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Cook the chicken: Pat the chicken breasts dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a slick of olive oil in a large skillet (large enough for the pasta and sauce) until hot and shimmering. Add the chicken and cook for 4 minutes without moving until browned. Flip and cook an additional 3-4 minutes, until just cooked through or slightly under. (You will be transferring to the oven, so don’t worry if it doesn’t quite reach 165ºF!) Wipe out the skillet.
Prepare the Sauce: In the same skillet, melt the butter over medium heat until melted and frothy. Add the onion halves, cut side down, and cook until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic halves and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Turn the heat to very low to allow the pan to cool down for a minute or two. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Turn the heat a low simmer, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.
Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook the pasta until just under al dente, about 1-2 minutes under what the package recommends. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water and then drain. Set aside.
Finish the Sauce: If keeping the onions and garlic, remove them from the sauce and transfer to a food processor. Pulse until puréed and return back to the sauce. Stir to incorporate. Add the 1/2 cup cooking water and the torn basil. Taste and season with more salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper if desired.
Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Arrange the chicken on top of the pasta and place a slice of mozzarella on top of each chicken. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 6-8 minutes until melted. If desired, turn on the broiler to brown the mozzarella in spots.
To Serve: Spoon the pasta on to plates and serve with a chicken breast on top. Garnish with the remaining thinly sliced basil. Enjoy!