I have mentioned before my love affair with takeout and that eating out at times is a necessity. This was true for us a few weeks ago. We have been working on some renovation projects at home (remodeling our bathroom, Gasp!) and needed to head up to our nearby DIY superstore. I say gasp because we only have one bathroom. After some energetic demolition efforts by Eric we are reduced to a tub and toilet that still functions, but are devoid of a sink, several walls, and parts of the ceiling. It really is a mess. On the positive side we are removing some really ghastly pink and black shower tile and are replacing it with white subway and gorgeous accent tile. We are also installing a soaking tub which I am really stoked about. All of this led to visits to a few DIY stores and a tile showroom to pick out said products. However before any final decisions were made we decided to talk about it over lunch.
Both craving Italian we threw around a few names of the run of the mill chains in the area before remembering Nicolinni’s. It should of been our first thought. We both adore that place. In fact over the past year we have dined there multiple times and even had two family events here. The staff is really wonderful to work with (I still feel a debt of gratitude to Stephanie for all her help!) and the food is divine. Just having lunch, we chose to sit in the bar area and were escorted to a cozy booth and began to peruse the menu. Usually when I go to a restaurant that I have been before I end up ordering the same things. It is usually an old stand-by that I love and am comfortable with. Realizing this about myself I am striving to change. As I looked over the lunch menu the Chicken & Greens over Penne called out to me. The description of the dish made my mouth water: Pan-seared chicken sautéed with spicy Italian greens in zesty cream sauce over penne. After ordering and as our server jotted it down on her pad of paper she said, “Oh that is my favorite dish!” I knew I had made the right choice with this dish and in trying something new.
For a lunch entree the portion size was quite large but I enjoyed every bit of it. Half of it went into my lunch at work the next day. It was a delicious dish with picante wilted greens served in a rich, thick, zesty, real cream sauce. It was love at first bite and I realized I wanted to recreate the flavors of this dish in my own kitchen. My version contains the same hot, zesty, picante flavors I loved but with less fat and overall calories. I achieved this with a little magic. Just kidding, I lightened up the heavy cream sauce by instead using vegetable stock, goat cheese and plain Greek yogurt. I also left off the chicken for a vegetarian option and added some fresh tomatoes. Thank you Nicolinni’s for the wonderful lunch experience and for inspiring this dish in my kitchen!
- 8 oz kale
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 8 garlic cloves
- ½ to 1 tsp hot pepper flakes
- 1 lb penne
- 4 oz chèvre
- ⅓ cup plain greek yogurt
- ½ tsp salt
- freshly ground pepper
- Boil water for pasta in large pot.
- While waiting for water to boil ready sauce.
- Chop garlic and sauté in large skillet over medium high heat until slightly caramelized and fragrant.
- Slice grape tomatoes in half adding to garlic in pan.
- Cook until tomatoes start to soften and breakdown slightly about 7-9 minutes.
- Add 8 oz kale (I used pre-washed chopped bagged kale), vegetable stock, desired amount hot pepper flakes, salt, and several twists of freshly ground pepper.
- Cook until greens are tender and wilted stirring occasionally.
- When water is boiling, cook penne according to package directions.
- Drain pasta and place back in pot, pouring kale mixture over hot pasta.
- Mix in goat cheese and ⅓ cup of plain greek yogurt.
- Stir well to coat pasta with cheese.
- Mix until goat cheese is melted and well distributed. Serve.