The Nigella Diaries – Tagliatelle with chicken from the Venetian Ghetto

Just how fabulous is the title of this dish? I’ve been wanting to make it for ages just because of that title. It certainly has more of a ring to it than the way I’ve described it in my upcoming novel. In The Cafe on Beach Road I simply call it roast chicken pasta. Hmmmm, not quite the same ring.

Nor is it quite the same recipe. More on that soon…

And it’s very simple: you roast a chicken, and then tear off the meat and golden skin and toss through a pile of tagliatelle along with sultanas, pinenuts, rosemary and parsley.

Nigella lawson, How To Eat

Like many of the recipes in How To Eat – in fact, like many recipes – this one had its source elsewhere. Before I talk about that though, I need to say this is one of the things I love most about Nigella: the way she credits others for her ideas. The fact is, most recipes have come from somewhere else. This one comes from Claudia Roden’s Book of Jewish Food – as did her Clementine Cake (which I spoke about here). (As another aside, why don’t I have that book in my cookbook library? I must rectify that.)

Back to the roast chicken pasta. I made it and it was good – really good. Certain members of my family, however, don’t like sultanas. That same family member also complained the roast chook didn’t taste like my usual roast chook. I hadn’t stuffed it with a lemon and a handful of herbs. I hadn’t put whole unpeeled garlic cloves in the cavity and the base of the tin. (You can find my ramblings on roast chicken here.)

The next time I made it, I did so as an after thought to a roast chicken dinner. I cooked my chicken in the usual way with the lemon, herbs and garlic, but roasted it breast down. When it was cooked I saved the cooking juices. The next evening I used the leftovers with some handmade tagliatelle, leaving out the sultanas and adding some grated parmesan even though Nigella said “no cheese please”. I also chopped up some of the crispy skin and sprinkled that over the top. The following day the carcass became stock for that weeks soup. #nowaste

Now it is set to appear in The Cafe On Beach Road. Max serves it up at a family dinner, finishing with her famous chocolate bread and butter pudding (which appeared also in Wish You Were Here.)

Below is how it will (editorial changes aside) appear in the novel…

This is more of a collection of ingredients rather than a recipe, but I’ll do my best. It’s based on Nigella’s Tagliatelle From The Venetian Grotto, but at its simplest it’s roast chook torn into pasta with the roasting juices acting as the sauce.

Texture is added by some toasted pine nuts and (wait for it) crispy chicken skin. Getting that skin crispy takes a little more effort, but it’s worth it. You might like to try leaving the chicken uncovered to dry out in the fridge overnight. I’ve also been known to dry the skin out with a hairdryer…

As for the chicken itself, I heat the oven to high (220C), usually stuff it with a lemon, some herbs (tarragon is good), and a few unpeeled garlic cloves. This will help to flavour the juices. I then rub oil over it, season it and whack it into the hot oven (breast-side down) before immediately reducing the temperature down to moderate. You cook the chicken however you like to, though.

The important part of this dish is the chicken fat (schmaltz) and pan juices. Once your chicken is cooked, take it out of the tray to rest for about fifteen minutes and carefully pour the pan juices into a jug. 

Put your pasta water onto boil and while that’s happening, dice a few banana shallots (the ones that are a cross between an onion and an eschalot or spring onion) and sauté them slowly in some plain olive oil in a large frying pan. When soft and pale golden, mince a couple of cloves of garlic into it, add a tablespoon of chopped rosemary, a big handful of toasted pine nuts, and the roasting juices. 

By now your pasta water should be boiling, so add your pasta of choice – spaghetti, penne, tagliatelle, fusilli – cook it according to the instructions on the packet and get to work on your chicken. Don’t be too precious about how you tear this up (I use my hands) and don’t forget to keep some of the crunchy skin for scattering across the top. As a rough idea you’ll need about a handful of shredded meat per portion. Toss it into the sauce and stir it about.

If things aren’t saucy enough at this stage, you can add some of the cooking water from the pasta once it’s done.

Once your pasta is cooked, scoop out a cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta and toss it straight into your chicken pan. If it needs extra moisture, tip in some of the pasta water. Add a few tablespoons of chopped parsley and a few tablespoons of grated parmesan or the equivalent. I should say at this point that Nigella and I don’t agree on the cheese thing, but then she also uses sultanas in her version, and I don’t agree with that.

Mix it together again. Serve with more chopped parsley, grated parmesan, that crispy skin you saved and a drizzle of olive oil. And a side salad, if you must.

I’ve taken on the challenge to cook my way through Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat. You can find other episodes here.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

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