Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Italian Food on a Budget

Italian food is possibly one of the easiest and quickest and possibly cheapest cuisine to make at home. It's usually not worth the price to eat out when all you need usually are some good diced tomatoes, a jar of tomato paste and some herbs and good quality olive oil. Some special store-bought gourmet pasta would also work well when you're trying to have a quick and elegant meal. I usually make enough cacciatore to last for both dinner and packed lunch the next day. It's super easy to make, saves a ton of money and tastes as good today as it does tomorrow.

You can pack leftover cacciatore in a microwave proof container along with some fresh bread and a cold cucumber salad for a satisfying lunch. A Bianco Sicilia complements the meal nicely.

Creamy Chicken Cacciatore with Olives and Basil
Serves 4

2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1 medium white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans of 16oz. diced plum tomatoes, drained
1 jar 4 oz. tomato paste
1/4 cup dry sherry or vermouth or white wine
1/4 cup ricotta cheese or cream cheese
1/2 cup Gaeta or Kalamata olives, sliced in half
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

Butterfly the chicken breast and cut into half to yield eight pieces. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Sear the chicken until cooked through, 4 minutes on each side. Set aside on a baking dish.

Set oven at 375°F.

In the same skillet, add one teaspoon of olive oil and saute onions and garlic until onions turn transluscent. Add in vermouth (or sherry) to deglaze the pan. Toss in the drained tomatoes and turn heat down to medium. Add in tomato paste and stir to combine. Allow the tomato mixture to simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in cheese and turn heat off.

Add sliced olives to the chicken in the baking dish. Pour in tomato mixture and scatter torn basil leaves on top. Bake the chicken for 15 minutes in the oven. Serve with rotelli pasta and a large side of salad.

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