Okay, this is so a keeper. Acini Chicken Caprese. Thanks to Melissa from Alosha's Kitchen for this caprese inspired recipe. It's so simple and so flavorful. And just wait until summer when the basil is sweet and the tomatoes ripe! This will most definitely be a go-to recipe for me. You can have it hot or cold, AND it would be perfect for a summer picnic!
Acini Chicken Caprese
1 box acini di pepe
4 tomotoes, diced
Large bunch basil, chiffonade
Toasted pine nuts
Grilled chicken, diced and seasoned with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of one lemon
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and add acini. Cook 9 minutes or until al dente. Drain and pour acini into a large mixing bowl.
Season chicken with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Grill or cook through, dice and add to pasta.
Toast pine nuts in oven or toaster oven. Add pine nuts, diced tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to pasta. Add zest and juice of the lemon. Grate pecorino romano. Mix well.
My notes: I prefer De Cecco Acini di pepe. It stays al dente, even after reheating. That's what makes this a great recipe to make ahead of time. Use tons of water for the acini. It looks small but don't let it fool you! It sucks up lots of water.
Do not leave while toasting the pine nuts! Let me repeat: DO NOT LEAVE! I burnt my first batch when I washed a dish. They go from white to brown to burnt within 30 seconds. Just keep a good eye on them.
Just look at that chicken! I love, love, LOVE my cast iron stovetop grill. I swear it turns ordinary meat into something so much more flavorful. Okay, so I know a typical caprese calls for mozzarella. But the thing that makes this dish so amazing is the contrast in flavors and textures. It's no surprise I love a sharp pecorino, but it works well here. Mozzarella is softer and would just be mushy in the pasta. Now, I'm not saying you can't use mozzarella, especially if you don't like sharp italian cheeses, but give pecorino a try.
Pine nuts are a pricier nut, but for about $5 worth you can change the dish from ok to wow! I too fell into the debate of 'to toast or not to toast' my pine nuts. Toasting gives them an extra edge and nuttyness; it takes them from sweeter to nutty. I've made this recipe twice now and it was just as good, if not better. That's a testament to a recipe: If you make it again and it turns out beautifully, it's a keeper. Light, flavorful, amazing. I can eat this straight for a whole week.