If you’ve heard of Zizzi’s restaurant in Dublin, I am sure you’ve also heard of its popular pasta. Today, we are taking that pasta and re-making it the Italian way. And although chicken is not something you would commonly find in Italian pasta, we can make an exception.
Here’s what to expect: hot, fresh and zesty this pasta dish is as steamy as it is refreshing; the beautiful ingredients remind me of a peppery Calabrian pasta, and the chicken makes it a crowd pleaser.
Let’s make it.
Casarecce Pasta Shape – Origin & Story
These delicious pieces of pasta come from the region of Sicily, where the Arab influence had its stronger effect. In fact, casarecce are inspired by busiate, an Arab dish made using a plant cane to twist together the different pieces of dough.
Nowadays, these are loved and enjoyed throughout Italy, especially in the South.
If you’ve ever seen a casareccia, you might have thought of how gorgeous and intricate its shape is. But have you ever realized that it’s actually representative of a scroll? I am referring to the old roll of yellow parchment paper used in the past to write letters and important documents.
Well, it seems obvious that a pasta descending from Arab origins would have the shape of a scroll, since the latter was invented in Egypt to replace the papyrus.
If you are thinking that this fact makes this pasta less Sicilian, and less Italian, think again. Studying the history of Sicily and Southern Italy, you will start appreciating the Arab influence on Sicilian and Italian culture. After all, aren’t we all the product of our past?
Casarecce Pollo Piccante Ingredients
Let me first tell you which ingredients Zizzi uses to make his pasta. These include:
Salt and pepper
Now, let’s take a look at the ingredients we are using to make the Italian version of this dish.
Casarecce (Belmorso Strozzapreti can be a good substitute)
Red chilli, Paprika and fennel
You can see how our ingredients make this pasta more typical Italian, even when we are using the chicken.
We are replacing the whole chicken breast with the minced chicken, because that’s what you would use to make a chicken ragu, inspired by the classic beef ragu or bolognese sauce.
We are using cooking cream, which in Italian we call panna da cucina (literally translated to cooking cream). Italians do not cook with double cream. It’s very unlikely you’ll even find that in Italy.
For the spices and the heat we are mixing a few Italian herbs that can be a great substitute to recreate the Harissa paste.
Of course, we are using extra virgin olive oil because no Italian would cook with just plain olive oil. Yes, we are that snob when it comes to olive oil :).
Finally, we’ve added the squeeze of lemon because we think that it will benefit this dish and cut through the chicken and the piccante taste. Plus, that’s also a flavour note in harissa paste.
Harissa Paste Substitute
Since Harissa Paste happens to be a product of Tunisia, another Arab country, you can see how this pasta almost has an Arabic feel to it, which marries well with the Casarecce shape from Sicily.
The traditional Tunisian harissa is made with sun-dried peppers, garlic, caraway seeds, salt, coriander and extra virgin olive oil.
Occasionally, it might also include cumin and citrus.
Considering the original ingredients, the simplest substitute and one that’s easy to put together would be paprika, lemon juice, garlic and cumin. To that, you could also add some chilli if you like a hot pasta.
For our Italian version, we are using the following spices: paprika and chilli flakes for the heat, and fennel as it’s a good alternative to caraway. Then, we are adding garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil to emulate the original recipe.
In addition, we are using fresh parsley and red onion because we think that these go well with harissa and the chicken, and can help us elevate this recipe.
Is there Chicken in Italian Pasta?
What’s the deal with Italians not liking to add chicken to their pasta dishes, you might be wondering.
Originally, chickens were mainly bred for their eggs, and not to enjoy their meat.
That’s because since the old times, chicken has been seen as a cheap meat in Italy. It wasn’t the right meat to be used to provide rich flavours to pasta dishes, such as beef and lamb, in the iconic ragu and bolognese.
With time, chicken meat started being purchased to save money. Italians like to eat it as a protein with a side dish, after seasoning and marinating it well to give it the much needed flavour it lacks.
Think of pasta as an excipient, that is something that needs to be flavoured. If to that you add another food that also lacks flavour, the result is not very flavourful and delicious. Would you agree?
These are all the reasons why chicken and pasta are not a match in Italian cuisine.
Nowadays, more and more Italians are cooking with chicken, even pasta but the resulting recipes are neither traditional nor authentic.
Casarecce Piccante with Chicken Recipe
Ready to make our version of this trending dish?
Here comes our recipe. Feel free to print it out or follow along on your device.
Casarecce Piccante with Chicken
- 1 chopping board
- 1 chopping knife
- 1 pan
- 1 pot
- 250 gr Casarecce
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 small red onion
- 200 gr minced chicken
- 10 cherry tomatoes
- 60 ml cooking cream
- 1 pinch ground fennel
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 dash chilli flakes or more if you like it hot
- fresh parsley
- 1 lemon
- Belmorso Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Mince the garlic and chop the onion.
- Set aside 1/3 of the onion so you can add it raw at the end when you are serving your pasta. You can skip this step if you don't like eating raw onion. In that case, cook the entire onion.
- Sauté the garlic and onion in a pan with Belmorso Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
- Add the spices to aromatise.
- Boil the water for the pasta with plenty of salt.
- After a few minutes, you can add the chicken to the garlic and onion, and mix well.
- Wash, cut and add your cherry tomatoes into the same pan.
- Add the casarecce to cook.
- Time to add your cooking cream and season with a little salt. Your piccante sauce is ready.
- Drain your pasta and transfer back to pot. Add the piccante sauce, a handful of parsley and mix.
- Serve with a generous squeeze of lemon, and buon appetito.
More Spicy Pasta Recipes on the Blog
If you have a thing for spicy pasta, make sure to also check out these:
- Tomato and Vegetable Pasta with Cannonata
- Vegan Mushroom Risotto with Chilli
- Chickpea Pasta with a Kick
What pasta is similar to casarecce? and answering your questions
What is pollo piccante?
What does casarecce mean in Italian?
What pasta is similar to casarecce?
What is casarecce pasta?
What is casarecce pasta good for?
Is there chicken in Italian pasta?
What does piccante mean?
What is the Italian version of harissa?