Chicken and vegetables smothered in a lemony butter garlic sauce seasoned with capers and chilies, then tossed in spaghetti for a spicy citrusy chicken pasta.
Love at First Sight
It all started one night, eating out at an excellent Italian restaurant. I ordered the chicken piccata and a side of vegetables a la carte, described as chicken breast in a lemon butter caper sauce.
I was confused. This simple meal didn't come with pasta! Because I thought all Italian dishes came with pasta. How ignorant. What was I thinking?! In addition, I was mesmerized by the crisp, bright green beans, carrots, zucchini, and yellow squashed cooked in a bit of butter. Evidently, I fell in love with the taste!
The combination is so classic but so delicious. Furthermore, if you know me, I had to add some chili flakes! Consequently, this made the combination and the whole night magical. To sum up, it doesn't take much to make me happy; just gift me food!
As a big pasta fan, you must try my Jalapeño Pesto and Argentinian Shrimp Pasta and Loaded Cheesy Ground Turkey Red Lentil Pasta. But don't stop there; check out Turmeric Herbed Tofu with Roasted Vegetable Israeli Couscous and Basil Romesco Sauce and Plant-Based: Italian Sausage with Spicy Creamy Lentil Pasta vegetarian options. I also have the Israeli Couscous with Roasted Vegetables and Basil Romesco Pasta Sauce as a side recipe to go with your favorite protein.
This recipe is influenced by chicken piccata, an Italian lemony chicken dish. What is piccata? Piccata is a meat cutlet, originally Italian and translated directly as “larded.” But we now know it as a cooking technique for pounding meat. For example, some may have had chicken or veal "piccata."
It is basically the meat that has been pounded out, coated in flour, then cooked in butter until golden brown. Interestingly, this dish is traditionally veal and not served with pasta; it is served after the pasta dish.
For the love of Mediterranean food, try these influenced dishes: Spicy Pesto Chicken Pasta and a popular comfort yumminess, Chicken Meatballs, and Israeli Couscous Vegetable Soup.
Keep it Simple
To make this lemon pepper chicken pasta meal more accessible, I skipped the pounding-out part because not everyone has a mallet at home. These days, chicken fillets are so large and plump that you might have to slice one chicken breast into three fillets horizontally.
Instead, the chicken is butterflied, cut in half horizontally to make thinner fillets, then sliced into three pieces. Butterflied usually means horizontally splitting the chicken breast in half, but a quarter is still intact, creating a shape similar to a butterfly.
The loaded lemon pepper chicken pasta recipe is broken down into four parts: pasta, chicken, vegetable, and sauce. Make sure to read the entire recipe before starting and have all the ingredients prepared before cooking for a great result.
First, boil your spaghetti and a large amount of water and salt until al dente. Then, prep your chicken by seasoning it with salt and pepper, dredging it in flour, and set aside.
Next, you'll saute the carrots, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini in olive oil. Then, you'll remove it and set it aside. For the sauce, add more olive oil and butter to the pan. You will lightly brown the chicken in this oil mixture, then remove and set aside.
Then saute the aromatics: thyme, garlic, capers, and pepper flakes. Next, the sauce will come together after adding the white wine, chicken broth, lemon juice, and zest. Add the chicken back in, and wait for the sauce to thicken. Next, add the vegetables and pasta back in. Then finish with chopped fresh parsley.
See the lemon pepper chicken pasta recipe card for quantities.
Prevent contamination with color-coded cutting boards and wearing gloves when handling raw poultry.
Placing your hand flat on the chicken breast allows you to feel where the knife is when slicing it evenly in half.
Completely separate the filleted chicken breast.
Then, slice each half into thirds.
At this point, you can pound them out with a mallet for extra tenderness.
Busy Folks - Become a better home cook with cooking tips to help you cook more efficiently on Cook's Notebook tab. In addition, some related detailed steps can be found there.
- Gluten-Free - Try gluten-free pasta made explicitly from lentils, quinoa, brown rice, etc. In addition, for the flour, I recommend sorghum flour; it browns nicely and thickens the sauce.
- Vegetarian - Firstly, omit the chicken and add more mushrooms. I also suggest adding a variety of mushrooms. However, if you are going to use portabellas, slice them thinly. You can also add artichoke hearts. Marinated artichokes will also pair well. Also, breaded and fried oyster mushrooms have been a popular substitute.
- Thyme - You can substitute the fresh one sprig of thyme with a quarter teaspoon of dried thyme.
Change Heat Level - Modify the lemon pepper chicken pasta recipe's heat level to your liking and learn more about the Scoville Scale and Chili Pairings.
- Lemon Pepper Branzino - Instead of chicken, serve with roasted Branzino fish for dinner.
- Lemon Pepper Chicken Pillard - Omit the pasta. Then, serve the small chicken pieces as a large pounded chicken cutlet instead with the vegetables tossed in the lemon pepper sauce and an arugula salad lightly tossed in lemon vinaigrette,1:3 ratio with salt and pepper.
- Lemon Pepper Shrimp - Use jumbo shrimp instead of chicken
- Creamy Lemon Pepper - Make it creamy by adding heavy cream when you place the chicken back into the sauce.
- Zester - Used to zest the lemon to enhance the flavor of the lemon pepper dish. Moreover, I've used a Microplane Classic Zester Grater for over two decades, plus any recipe that suggests testing, you might see me using it in my videos. In short, it's a great tool to have. It can also be used to grate ginger, hard cheeses, and garlic.
- Pasta Pot - Used it to cook and drain the pasta. I developed this lemon pepper chicken pasta recipe using the AVACRAFT Stainless Steel Saucepan with Glass Strainer Lid. The lid also has a convenient strainer with two sizes, and it's just the right size to cook pasta for two. It's also a multifunctional saucepan, so you can cook in it. I've also used it for potatoes to make mashed potatoes. Just drain, add the seasonings and mash. Same for the pasta, I was able to drain it and then add the olive oil and seasonings.
- Large Mixing Bowl - Used for dredging the chicken in flour.
- Holding Tray - For holding the fried chicken pieces. You can use a metal half-sheet pan with a rack, like the USA Pan Bakeware Quarter Sheet Pan, the perfect size and material to place next to the stove.
- Medium Saute Pan - Used to fry the chicken pieces, cook the vegetables and toss it all together. For example, the Cuisinart Contour Hard Anodized 5-Quart Saute Pan would be great for this job.
Kitchen Must Haves - Find other tools I use here.
- Refrigerator - To store in the fridge, place in a 2-inch shallow container to cool down quickly. Then, store in an air-tight sealing container. The pasta dish will last for up to four days.
- Freezer - Follow the refrigeration process mentioned above. In addition, if there is a lot, you should strain the liquid and freeze it separately. The fluid may destroy the pasta and vegetables' texture. Then, you can place it in the freezer in a labeled, airtight container.
Slicing the chicken thin, like butterflying, assists with quick frying. This also helps with less oil absorption. Another way to reduce oil absorption is to have the oil always at the ideal temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit between frying batches by waiting for the temperature to rise again before adding more pieces.
In addition, space out pieces to prevent steaming. You also want your chicken to fry, not steam.
Frequently Asked Questions
Zesting is peeling only the skin of the citrus fruit without the white flesh, referred to as pith. The skin also contains aromatic oils and is an excellent addition to recipes to intensify the flavors of a dish.
A fine grater is the most convenient way to obtain the zest of the citrus fruit, usually referred to as zester or a Microplane—more about zesting.
"Al dente" is when the pasta is cooked just enough to have a "firm bite," an Italian term.
Piccata is a meat cutlet, originally Italian and translated directly as “larded.” But we now know it as a cooking technique for pounding meat. For instance, some may have had chicken or veal "piccata."
Looking for other Mediterranean recipes like this? Try these:
Looking for other poultry recipes like this? Try these:
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Loaded Lemon Pepper Chicken Pasta
- 4 cups water
- 4 ounces of spaghetti dry
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 ounces of boneless skinless chicken breasts
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup carrots matchsticks
- ¾ cup onions sliced
- 2 cups mushrooms sliced
- 2 cup zucchini three inch-medium sticks
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 sprig thyme
- 6 garlic cloves minced or garlic pressed
- 2 tablespoon capers
- ¼ teaspoon chili pepper flakes
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 2 tablespoon parsley
- Save time in the kitchen: Read the instructions thoroughly, then gather and prep all your ingredients before cooking! Learn Prepping Tips.
- For the pasta, in a 2.5-quart medium sauce pot on high heat, boil the spaghetti to al dente as instructed by the brand you are using.
- Using a colander, run the pasta under cold water to stop the cooking, then place the drained pasta aside.
- For the chicken, on a cutting board for chicken, butterfly the chicken by splitting the chicken in half horizontally. Then cut and divide each chicken fillet into three even pieces.
- Using a paper towel, pat the chicken pieces dry.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Place flour in a large container enough to fit all the chicken pieces.
- Clean and dry the cutting board.
- Dredge the chicken by lightly coating it in flour, shaking off the excess flour, and then laying it out on the dry cutting board.
- Discard the flour in the large container, clean, dry, and set aside.
- Set aside also a medium container.
- For the vegetables, on medium-high heat, heat a 13-inch large saute pan with tall sides.
- Once the pan is hot, add and heat the oil.
- Once the oil is hot and freely moves around the pan, add and saute the carrots for about 30 seconds, stirring occasionally.
- Then add and saute onions for another 30 seconds.
- Next, add the mushroom, combine well and saute for another 30 seconds, stirring occasionally.
- Then add the zucchini, combine well, add a pinch of salt to season and saute for one minute, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the sauteed vegetables from the pan into the large container and set aside.
- For the sauce, keep the heat on but remove the pan from the heat and reduce the temperature of the heat to medium.
- Then place the pan back onto the heat source.
- Add and heat the oil and butter.
- Slowly place the flour-coated chicken pieces into the saute pan, leaving half an inch of space in between each piece to prevent over-crowding the pan.
- Fry the chicken pieces until lightly golden brown on the edges. Note: You might have to do it in two batches and skim the debris in between batches with a fork or sieve. You may refer to the video for an overview.
- Place the lightly golden brown chicken pieces into the medium holding container.
- Again, skim the oil in the pan for debris.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low.
- To the heated oil, add the garlic, capers, thyme, and chili flakes, and sweat by cooking for 30 seconds, stirring occasionally.
- Next, add the white wine, combine well, increase the heat to medium, and allow the alcohol to evaporate, by simmering for 30 seconds.
- Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, and zest, and increase the heat to medium-high.
- When a quarter of the sauce is reduced, remove the fresh thyme. Note: if you used dried, there would be no need to discard the thyme.
- Add the chicken to the sauce, and ensure all chicken is cooked; the flour on the chicken will slightly thicken the sauce.
- When the chicken is cooked, season with salt.
- Next, add the pasta and vegetables back in, combine well, and cover and heat everything, by simmering for 30 seconds.
- Toss and garnish the finished pasta with parsley.
- Cook chicken to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C).
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food that previously touched raw meat to prevent foodborne illness from contaminated uncooked meats.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat to prevent cross-contamination.
- Don't leave food at room temperature for extended periods; this can breed bacteria.
- Never leave cooking food unattended to prevent burns and fires.
- Use oils with a high smoke point to avoid harmful compounds.
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
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