Introducing kids to new flavors (or even just slight changes from what they are used to) is one of my all-time goals as far as raising healthy eaters.
Chicken nuggets are a staple in our house, like many American homes, so my kids are very familiar with the idea of bite-sized pieces of fried chicken. This recipe takes hold of that and introduces it in a slightly different way: Chicken Piccata!
Chopping up the chicken and adding it to penne also makes it very approachable to kids. It’s a recipe that has the best of chicken piccata, but in a slightly easier-to-serve preparation.
WHAT IS CHICKEN PICCATA?
Chicken piccata is a classic Italian dish that’s made by lightly pan-frying chicken cutlets in olive oil. Traditionally, after the chicken is fried, you use the same pan to make a bright sauce of lemon, butter, and capers that gets served over the chicken, alongside pasta.
It’s one of my favorite Italian recipes, but can be a bit tough for kids because it’s a huge piece of chicken that many of them can’t yet cut for themselves, and the sauce has some flavors that some kids may not be used to, such as the saltiness of capers.
MAKING CHICKEN PICCATA KID-FRIENDLY
Instead of serving a big hunk of chicken, I chop it up after cooking it and add it back to the pasta, which makes it much more approachable for the kids.
Also, instead of pouring the sauce over the chicken, I stir it all together with the penne pasta so kids can’t identify the ingredients that they might not be used to. Rather than a big pile of capers, they just get the occasional caper.
STORING AND REHEATING THE PENNE
This recipe makes a lot of food! You will almost certainly have leftovers. Here are some pointers.
- If possible, I recommend storing the chicken and the pasta separately. Ultimately, it’s okay to store it together if that’s easier for you, but just know that the chicken will lose some of its crunch if it’s stored with the pasta.
- Don’t chop and stir in all the chicken in the recipe if you are planning on saving some to reheat later.
- When it’s time to eat the leftovers you’ve stored separately, reheat the chicken in a 350°F oven until warmed through, maybe eight minutes. Reheat the pasta gently on the stovetop in a saucepan, with a splash of water. Then combine them!
The DAD ADD: Buttered Italian Breadcrumbs!
These buttery toasted breadcrumbs go well on almost any pasta dish and add some great texture. My favorite part of chicken piccata is the super thin crispy crust, so I figured, why not just make that crust in breadcrumb form and sprinkle it on?
I made this Dad Add for me, but my kids like it, also!
Rejoice! This was a big hit with my family, which is funny because I’ve made traditional chicken piccata that went untouched. It’s all in the presentation!
Both of my kids ate big helpings of the pasta and chicken and even tried some capers. My four-year old really likes capers, so I know he is mine. The verdict is out on the two-year old. (Re: capers, not Re: Dad).
For extra credit, we had another family over to dinner on the night I made this, and both of their two young kids also loved this dish. So it got a four-out-of-four from the kids who tried it.
I think that pretty much means it’s a home run.
I’m sure the next time I make it, my kids will act like I’m trying to feed them mutant alien dinner. Go figure.
MORE EASY KID-FRIENDLY CHICKEN RECIPES!
Chicken Piccata Pasta Recipe
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into cutlets about 3/4-inch thick
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small white onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- Juice from 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons of juice)
- 1/4 cup capers
- 1/4 cup fresh minced parsley
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the DAD ADD: Buttered Italian Breadcrumbs:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil, and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package instructions. Scoop out and reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta-cooking water, and then drain the pasta. Set aside.
2 Make the Dad Add – Buttered Breadcrumbs: In a small skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Add breadcrumbs and stir them well so they evenly soak up the butter.
Cook on low heat until the breadcrumbs start to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Watch them closely, as they can go from perfect to burned quickly.
3 Prep the chicken: Mix together the flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl. Whisk the eggs in a second shallow bowl. Dip the chicken breasts first in the egg and then coat them with the flour mixture. They should have a very light coating on them. Let chicken rest on a plate.
4 Fry the chicken: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil sizzles immediately when you sprinkle a little flour in it, it's ready. Add the chicken pieces and cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side (8 to 10 minutes total). Check cooked chicken with a meat thermometer to make sure it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
Remove chicken from the skillet, and let it rest while you finish the dish.
5 Make the piccata sauce: Pour out all but about 2 tablespoons of the oil in the skillet, and add the 2 tablespoons butter. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add onions and sliced garlic. Stir the veggies, cooking for a few minutes until they soften.
Add chicken stock and lemon juice, and using a wooden spoon, scrape up any bits stuck to the pan.
6 Finish the dish: Add the cooked penne to the skillet. Toss the penne with the lemon butter sauce. If the pan seems dry, add enough of the reserved 1/2 cup pasta cooking water so the pasta no longer seems dry.
After the chicken has cooled slightly, chop the skillet fried chicken into big chunks, and add back into the penne mixture. Garnish with fresh parsley and capers.
7 Garnish and serve: Serve the penne while warm, topping each bowl with the crispy buttered Italian breadcrumbs.
This dish keeps great in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. If you can plan ahead on the portion you will keep for leftovers, it’s best to actually store the chicken and pasta separately. Otherwise, the chicken will get soggy. Reheat the chicken in a 350°F oven for about 8 minutes, and then chop and add to reheated penne pasta.
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