The North End used to be a quaint little corner of Boston known for Italian American Restaurants. When I lived there it was still separated from the rest of the city by the central artery, I-93, which created a walled effect and helped the neighborhood keep much of its vintage uniqueness. Italian immigrants still gathered at the Graffitti Bar to watch soccer matches, and Italian was still spoken in many small mom and pop stores. What it was (and still is) known for was the dozens of restaurants with murals of Italian countrysides and Frank Sinatra crooning through small speakers.
With few exceptions, the menus were almost all the same. Lobster Ravioli, Chicken Marsala, and Veal Parmesan were the headliners. Hubby and my favorite little take-out joint, Dino’s, was around the corner from our Condo. While the place is still best known for it’s subs, I always loved the Chicken, Ziti and Broccoli.
I started making this recipe while working at America’s Test Kitchen, and my version is heavily adapted from a version published in Cook’s Illustrated Magazine in October of 2006 (I can’t link directly to the recipe since it is subscription-only content.) Since I no longer have the original recipe, I’ve recreated one below from the same idea.
The internet is overflowing with recipes for chicken and broccoli pasta recipes. But this one captures the rich, creamy and cheesy flavor of the full-of-fat versions in those North End “Red Sauce” joints. Not only does it have drastically less fat and calories than those restaurant versions, but it’s cooked all in one pot! The chicken is browned and set aside. Then the sauce is built on the browned bits of chicken, onions and garlic. Heavy Cream is replaced with broth and just a 1/2 cup of whole milk. Whole wheat or fiber-rich penne replaces traditional pasta (although the recipe is great with any pasta). What helps give it so much flavor is that the pasta cooks right in the sauce helping to thicken it, and so that the flavor of the sauce soaks through the pasta. The broccoli steams right on top of the pasta as it cooks and then the whole thing is tossed with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese.
This is a crowd-pleaser of a recipe. Everyone from the picky eaters to the little ones will love this dish. You’ll love it because its easy! Enjoy!