This dish was inspired by a simple pasta dish I used to make for dinner during my junior and senior years of college. I’d saute a chopped tomato and chopped onion with a little olive oil and garlic, toss the mixture with some small pasta shells, and top the dish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. When I first made the dish I’m sharing here, I was picturing a chicken breast topped with an onion and tomato mixture, with the chicken acting like a slice of bread would in a bruschetta appetizer, but the end result ended up being so much better. With chicken, tomato sauce, and some good thick balsamic vinegar, that simple college meal that got me through many busy weeknights was elevated to a light, flavorful dinner that’s perfect on a warm summer night.
Prep. time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: About 20 minutes
- 1/2 lb. angel hair pasta
- 2 chicken breasts (pound the chicken so it is a little less than an inch thick; I serve half a chicken breast per person)
- 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar (the thicker and darker, the better—we use Gia Russa brand balsamic glaze)
- Salt and pepper
- 7-8 oz. plain tomato sauce
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Parmesan cheese, to taste
- Basil, to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente (about 9 minutes), then drain the water. In the meantime, brush both sides of the chicken breasts with 1 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar (use more if need be) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a skillet and add the chicken, cooking until golden brown and no longer pink inside. In another skillet, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil and add the garlic, tomatoes, and onion, cooking until they are slightly soft. Add the tomato sauce and add 1 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar to the tomato and onion mixture, stirring to combine. Toss the pasta with the tomato sauce mixture and serve alongside chicken, topping the pasta with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and fresh or dried basil. If you want to make it even more like the bruschetta appetizer that I envisioned when I first made it, toss cubes of fresh mozzarella cheese in with the pasta or top the chicken breasts with a slice of mozzarella and pop in the oven at 350* F until cheese is bubbling and slightly golden brown (about 5 to 10 minutes—be careful not to overcook the chicken).
This dish is so simple, but it has a complex flavor that makes it better than plain old spaghetti with marinara. The onion adds sweetness to the fresh tomatoes and tomato sauce and the balsamic vinegar adds a rich flavor. This meal is absolutely delicious and even better if you have freshly grated Parmesan to sprinkle on top—it really adds to the flavor of the sauce.