Better than a restaurant and in under an hour

So this summer my herbs have been growing like crazy and I decided I really should do a bit of trimming. Of course I couldn’t just throw out perfectly good, fresh herbs. On the other hand, it has been REALLY hot and the last thing I want is to spend hours by a hot oven or stove.

The herb in question here is sage.

I happen to love sage with butternut squash ravioli and brown butter or with eggs, but my husband is not a huge fan. I was undeterred. I had some beautiful fresh sage leaves and I was going to use them. I also happened to have some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and a package of La Quercia Speck Americano (Prosciutto or Jamon would have worked as well) in the fridge. I ALWAYS have several good cheese options and in this case it was an Asiago Fresco. (A good Mozzarella, Pecorino, Cubadu etc. would also work.) My pantry ALWAYS has a good bottle of pasta sauce – in this case a simple, but delicious marinara with basil – some kind of pasta (spinach fettuccine nests). The key is not to get bogged down in finding the exact same ingredients that the recipe calls for but to let yourself work with what you have or is easily available. I really, really hate when a recipe calls for 2 Tablespoons of something that I have no other idea how to use and then I am stuck having spent a fair amount of money on a single ingredient that I don’t even know if I will like. Soooooooooooooooooo while I will always, always advocate for using great quality ingredients, you can and should not feel like a slave to a recipe.

Have I mentioned yet what I decided to make?? Chicken Saltimbocca a la Lisa. This is a recipe that really doesn’t require a lot of careful measuring. I used a large rectangular baking dish (12″ x 9″ x 2.5″). Mine is stoneware and makes clean-up a snap. I also gave in a year ago and treated myself to a really nice meat pounder. It’s round with a handle and has a nice heft to it. The meat doesn’t get torn up and it is highly recommended for getting rid of any aggression you may be feeling.

I preheated my oven to 375 degrees F. I pounded my chicken breast as flat as I could between two pieces of plastic wrap. You could use parchment or waxed paper too. I then generously salted (Kosher salt only) and peppered (cracked black) both sides. With what would have been the skin side facing up, I began my assembly. I took some finely chopped fresh garlic (a generous 1/2 teaspoon for each breast) and spread it across the top. I then took several sage leaves and lay those over the top of each breast. On top of that went one slice of Speck and several thin slices of my Asiago Fresco. I poured about 1/2 of the large jar of pasta sauce in the bottom of my baking dish and carefully laid the chicken on top of the sauce in a single layer. I drizzled a bit of EVOO over everything and I popped it in the oven uncovered for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, I turned the broiler on high and let the cheese brown for five minutes. Watch it, though, since all ovens are different!

While the chicken cooked, I made my pasta al dente and after draining it, I mixed in the remaining pasta sauce and added some freshly grated pecorino. I could have added some fresh basil or used a different kind of pasta, but this is what I had. When the chicken was finished and the cheese was bubbling, I plated everything and served it with a simple salad. This took less than an hour and was full of umami goodness. The chicken was tender and all of the flavors were present and accounted for. People will think you slaved over a hot stove and you will smile (not too smugly) when they are thanking you for this glorious dinner.  Buon Appetito!

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