Chicken Risotto for My Dad Who Hated Chicken

Today is June 6, 2014 – D-Day. It marks the 70th anniversary of the Allied Invasion on the beaches of Normandy, France; and a day that changed the course of World War II.

Today also marks what would have been my dad’s 86th birthday. It’s been more than 23 years since he died, and not a day goes by when I don’t think of him. What I remember most is his quiet ways; his laid-back, non-assuming personality; his amazing intellect and common sense.

My dad loved Italian food, and despised chicken. He’d go to great lengths to avoid eating it. The other day, my mother and I were reminiscing how he’d mutter under his breath his disdain for the bird while carving it.

When Daddy was going for his treatments for his throat cancer, he spent Monday through Thursday with Jeffrey. Jeffrey would accompany Daddy to his treatments and then they’d have lunch together. Since Jeffrey was a vegetarian, it was easy for them to avoid chicken at all costs. Thursday afternoons, I’d go to Manhattan where Jeffrey lived to pick up my dad and bring him back to New Jersey to my house.

He’d spend the weekends with me, playing with the boys, listening to his beloved classical music, reading his beloved New York Times and trying to avoid chicken.

One time, I made Chicken Risotto. I knew how much he didn’t want to eat it, but I also knew that if I prepared it in such a way as to mask its taste, he just may go for it. So I made sure to cut the chicken so small that it was completely blended, so that all he tasted was the rice and cheese. I’m happy to say that he enjoyed it and mentioned it to my mom when he talked to her on the phone.

And now, here’s the recipe in honor of my Daddy who hated chicken!

.    2 tbsp. olive oil

.    1/2 lb. mushrooms, cut into thin slices any kind

.    2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into cubes

.    5 cups low-sodium chicken broth

.    1/2 cup chopped onion

.    2 cups Arborio rice

.    1 cup grated Italian cheese (Locatelli, Parmesan)

.    3 tbsp. Italian seasoning

.    Salt & Pepper to taste

.    OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup white wine

In a large 12” skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent

Next, add mushrooms and cook until light brown

*You may need to add another tablespoon of olive oil at this point

In the same pan, add the Arborio rice and sauté until coated with oil.

Finally, add the chicken, and Italian seasoning; stirring until chicken is cooked

Now, add 2 cups of chicken broth and lower heat to simmer.

This is where it gets hairy!

You need to continue stirring this mixture to be sure the rice doesn’t stick and the broth doesn’t get absorbed too quickly.

Keep adding the stock, a little at a time; keeping the rice and chicken moist.

Once all of the broth has been added, turn the heat off and let it sit until all of the broth has been absorbed, continue stirring.

Once all of the broth has been absorbed, add the cheese and mix completely.

Add additional seasoning to your taste

  • Have additional grated cheese on the table for those of us who are cheese addicts.

Serve with warm Italian bread



Pasta Fazool !!!!

During the cold winter months, Nana made a lot of her wonderful peasant dishes. These meals usually consisted of pasta, beans and vegetables to not only fill you up but also were meant to feed an entire family. These dishes were nourishing for the body and the soul. Two of my favorites were peas and macaroni (pasta e piselli) and bean and macaroni (pasta e fagioli). This recipe is for pasta e fagioli, or as we called it when we were growing up-Pasta Fazool!!!

It’s so easy to make and lends itself to variety. For example, you can add kidney beans or garbanzo beans, potatoes or orzo to change it up. Something Nana did a lot.

Here’s the recipe:


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot – diced
1 stalk of celery – diced

1 medium onion – sliced 
1 teaspoon chopped garlic 

1 large can of crushed tomatoes
8 oz chicken broth
Fresh Italian parsley and basil – chopped
1 bay leaf

1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans juice and all

1 1/2 cups ditalini pasta (you can also use small shells)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup grated Italian cheese (I mix parmigiano reggiano and locatelli romano together)


  •  Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute carrot, celery and onion until soft. Add garlic.
  • Stir in crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, pepper, salt, parsley and basil and simmer for 20 minutes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the ditalini pasta and cook for 8 minutes or until al dente, then drain.
  • Add beans to the sauce mixture and simmer for a few minutes.
  • When the pasta is done, stir it into sauce and bean mixture.
  • Add the bay leaf and some of the Italian cheese to the mixture to thicken it a bit.
  • Serve in bowls with warm Italian bread for dipping in the delicious sauce.

* This recipe will serve about 4 people or two really hungry people!