A Taste of Umbria – My Way!
Creamy, savory, light, this Italian sauce or ragu made without any tomatoes, is inspired by our recent trip to Umbria, Italy. The traditional trinity of onion, carrot and celery adds flavor and the salty pancetta and rich chicken thighs combine to create a luscious and tasty entrée.
Umbria the home of walled cities, olives, pigs, truffles and amazing people was a charming and picturesque place to visit and I certainly loved immersing myself in the local cuisine. This ragu bianco was a dish I absolutely fell in love with and therefore tried at several places – made with guanciale and vegetables and often served with slow cooked pork loin. I decided to BE BRAVE and try making it with chicken thighs instead, however, I did include some pancetta – after all, I am trying to re-create an Umbrian dish!
This sauce is best served with a nice thin spaghetti or fettuccini along with a crisp green salad with a light olive oil and vinegar dressing.
While I still long to return to Umbria, I enjoy making this dish – served with some of my favorite Umbrian Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a crunchy salad and a small glass of Italian wine, it reminds me of our magical vacation.
Spaghetti with Chicken Ragu Bianco
(* indicates my preferred ingredients – see notes for alternatives)
4 oz pancetta or guanciale, finely chopped
4-6 garlic cloves
1 – 1 ½ lb boneless chicken thighs (skin on or off)
½ white onion, diced
½ – ¾ carrot, diced
2 stalks tender celery, diced
½ red chili – thinly sliced
¼ cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1-2 tablespoons O&V Formaggio/Parmesan Dipper seasoning
2 spring onions
3-5 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
½ cup half-and-half (or heavy cream)
12 oz O&V Spaghetti (or any thin, long pasta of choice)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon lemon zest (more for garnish)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of Parmesan dipper, rubbing it in well. Tie the thyme, spring onions and bay leaves together with a piece of twine
Heat one tablespoon Garlic oil in a large skillet or pan over medium heat. Add the chopped pancetta and cook stirring often until browned (about 5 minutes). Transfer the crisp pancetta to a plate. Leaving 2 tablespoons of drippings and oil in the pan, discard the remaining oil/drippings.
Increase the heat to medium high and add the garlic to the pan. Add the chicken (work in batches, if needed, and don’t overcrowd the pan) and cook until golden brown on each side (about 6-8 minutes), then transfer chicken pieces to a plate.
Add remaining olive oil to the pan, along with the onion, carrot, celery and chili and lower heat to medium. Cook for 2-4 minutes until the onion is translucent (don’t let it brown). Add in the wine and scrape up any browned bits (called fond) stuck to the bottom of the pan. Allow the wine to reduce by half, then add back the chicken, remaining Parmesan dipper seasoning, twine wrapped herbs and the stock. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes (up to an hour) till chicken is tender.
Separately, boil the pasta according to the directions on the box and reserve ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid. Once chicken is cooked, remove the pieces of chicken to a cutting board and finely shred the chicken (discarding the skin).
Remove and discard the herb bundle from the sauce and add in the cooked pancetta to the sauce. Add the cream or half-and-half to the sauce and cook over medium high heat until sauce thickened and reduced by half (about 10 minutes). Stir in the shredded chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add cooked pasta, grated parmesan cheese, butter, lemon zest and half the parsley to the sauce combine well (adding some pasta cooking liquid to create a creamy sauce).
Serve in bowl with a garnish of parsley, lemon zest and a drizzle of lemon juice
Active time 50 minutes Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
* The Garlic EVOO adds another layer of flavor, and can be substituted with the Tuscan Herb oil that also adds a nice herby flavor. Alternatively, just use a high quality Unflavored EVOO and add a little more garlic and seasoning to the dish. I love the Parmesan dipper spice in this dish – it adds nice flavor and a slight creaminess, but you can substitute with your favorite high quality Italian spice mix. Try to use a bronze die cut pasta for this dish, so that the pasta clings onto the sauce better.
The highlighted products are all available at Oil & Vinegar stores.
Categories: Entrée, Make Ahead Meal, Umbria, Italian Pasta, Unflavored EVOO, Tuscan Herb EVOO, Garlic EVOO, Parmesan Dipper, Formaggio Dipper Spice, Ragu Bianco, White Italian Pasta Sauce, Guanciale, Chicken Thighs, Pancetta, Guanciale