This tomato-caper chicken orzo is one of those quick meals you can throw together with one eye closed.
Last week, I tried hot Pilates for the first time. I really enjoyed it, but I was absolutely famished after the class. It’s 100ºF in the hot room for the entire hour of exercise, so I was about to gnaw my arm off when I got home. I really wasn’t even in the mood to cook since I was sore and hot. But, I had laid out ground chicken, so I decided to whip something up.
This is one of those meals that requires so little effort which makes it a dream mid-week dinner. I’ve made so many variations of ground chicken pasta, like this one. This version is spicy, salty, briny, and just so easy to make.
How to make this tomato-caper chicken orzo:
Like most of my mid-week winners, you don’t need many ingredients for a filling dinner. I know some of you may feel strongly about this, but I actually used whole wheat orzo for this.
Lately, I’ve found whole wheat pasta to just be a bit more filling, so I seem to get more bang for my buck when I make it. You can use white pasta, of course. But if you’re up to trying something new, give whole wheat a try! My go-to is DeLallo Whole Wheat Orzo.
What you need
- Ground chicken: You can use any ground meat, like beef, turkey, or pork. You could even make this with loose Italian sausage. You’ll cook the chicken with shallot and season it with thyme and garlic powder. If you have an Italian seasoning you love, throw it in!
- Sauce: The sauce is just lots of crushed red pepper, capers, whole peeled tomatoes, and a little water. You can also use white wine for a more robust flavor. I add a bit of balsamic vinegar and sugar to the sauce to give it extra oomph.
- Pasta: I used whole wheat orzo, but you can use white pasta instead. You can use almost any short pasta here. You can make it with rigatoni or penne if you don’t have orzo.
- Finishing: I finish the pasta with fresh basil and a squeeze of lemon juice.
If you like, you can always pile lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.
How to make it
- Step 1: Fry up the chicken. Cook the ground chicken in olive oil and season it well with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dry thyme.
- Step 2: Make the sauce. Add the capers and plenty of crushed red pepper. Throw in a little water or wine and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and bring it to a boil. Simmer for about 20–25 minutes. You just want the sauce to be thick and not watery, so cook off any excess liquid. Season as it simmers and mash up the tomatoes as they cook.
- Step 3: Cook up the orzo. Boil it in a separate pot, reserve ½ cup of the water, and drain.
- Step 4: Finish it up. Toss the pasta in the sauce, adding pasta water as needed. Finish with basil and lemon juice.
Tomato-Caper Chicken Orzo
- Medium pot
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 shallot peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, plus more to taste
- ½ cup water or white wine
- 14.5- ounce can whole peeled tomatoes or use crushed
- 1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Pinch of sugar
- 12 ounces whole wheat orzo
- 10 basil leaves, torn, plus a few for garnish
- ½ lemon, juiced
- Salt and pepper
Cook the chicken:
- Heat the olive oil in a wide pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken and diced shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 12–15 minutes, breaking it up periodically while cooking. Once the chicken is cooked through, add the garlic powder and thyme and toss to coat.
Fry the capers:
- Move the chicken to one side of the pot. Add another teaspoon of olive oil to the empty side of the pot. Add the capers and crushed red pepper, stir into the hot oil, and allow the capers to sizzle for about 30 seconds.
- Toss to combine the chicken and capers.
Make the sauce:
- Turn the heat to high. Once the chicken begins to sizzle, pour in the water or wine and lift anything stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and sugar once the liquid begins to boil in the pot.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 20–25 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with your spoon as they cook. Taste and add salt, pepper, and more crushed red pepper to taste. Add a pinch more sugar if needed.
Cook the pasta:
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a generous pinch of salt and the orzo. Cook according to package directions. Scoop out ½ cup of water and drain the pasta.
Finish the sauce:
- Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper if needed. Add the cooked orzo, basil leaves, and lemon juice and toss to coat for 1–2 minutes, adding pasta water as needed until the sauce is glossy and the pasta is well-coated. Taste and season. Turn off the heat.
- Spoon the pasta onto a large serving platter and garnish with more basil leaves. Enjoy!