“A small handful of Pignoli or pine nuts, fragrant rosemary, thyme, garlic and olive oil create a light sauce that is drizzled over simple sautéed chicken breasts to create a meal that will transport you to the Ligurian region of Italy.”
Liguria is a narrow crescent shaped region, from the turquoise blue Mediterranean Sea to the jagged mountains, stretching from the border of France to Tuscany and is home to Genoa, one of Italy’s largest cities and the small picturesque village of Portofino.
Vineyards grow on the steep terraced mountains and overlook charming fishing villages such as the famous Cinque Terre. The coastal region is best known for its fresh seafood dishes, the bright green condiment called pesto, focaccia and fresh vegetables. What may be less known are its fantastic olive oils and distinctive wines, locally made cheeses and white meats such as rabbit seasoned with wild herbs that are all excellent.
If you are familiar with the cuisine of the Italian Riviera and someone mentions a sauce of herbs and pine nuts, your immediate thought might be of the bright green pesto the region is known for, but this sauce doesn’t use traditional basil. Instead the fragrant Mediterranean herbs, rosemary and thyme that grow wild and scent the air in this region of Italy, are used to make this quick and easy dish. In keeping with how food is usually prepared at family run trattorias that cook with just a few simple ingredients, this chicken is coated with a fruity olive oil, sprinkled with a little sea salt and pepper, sautéed and then finished with a fresh herb and pine nut sauce. It is perfect for a quick weekday meal but the flavor is special enough to serve your guests.
A small handful of Pignoli or pine nuts, fragrant rosemary, thyme, garlic and olive oil create a light sauce that is drizzled over simple sautéed chicken breasts to create a 30 minute meal that will transport you to the Ligurian region of Italy. This delicious sauce is also great drizzled over a piece of grilled fish, your favorite pasta or fresh vegetables.
Sautéed Chicken With A Fresh Herb And Pine Nut Sauce
Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly.
Herb And Pine Nut Sauce
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
Toast the pine nuts in a dry sauté pan over medium heat, tossing frequently, until just golden brown. Watch carefully as they can easily burn. Once brown, remove from the pan and let cool. When cool, chop the nuts until very fine. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a small sauce pan over low heat and warm for one minute. Remove from the heat, add the nuts and fresh herbs and let the sauce rest for the flavors to meld.
One chicken breast per person, pounded to even out the thickness
salt and pepper to taste
Rub the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick sauté pan over medium high heat. Place the chicken, breast smooth side down, in the skillet and cook for 2 – 3 minutes until golden brown. (If you have a cooking weight, it will help with even browning). Turn the chicken breast over and cook until done, depending on the thickness about another 3 minutes. Plate the chicken and drizzle with the herb and pine nut sauce.
The flavor of this simple dish is enhanced by toasting the pine nuts first…it adds to their rich, buttery flavor and texture.
I know that Pignoli, or pine nuts as they are commonly called, are expensive but you only need about a tablespoon for each chicken breast that you prepare as pine nuts pack a lot of flavor. You can certainly substitute the pine nuts but the flavor will not be the same as what you would have in the Ligurian region of Italy.
I like to warm the garlic as it mellows its pungency but it is not necessary.