Part of the reason I used fennel in my lunch salad for the coming week was that I was determined to break my pattern (inherited from my dad) of always adding fennel to tomato sauces. Instead, I went Greek for inspiration, inspired by the deliciousness of moussaka to add eggplant and by my first-ever experience cooking artichokes (for my fellow foreign study students, TA, and professor in a lovely house on Andros) to add artichoke hearts. Then I just looked up “Greek tomato sauce” and decided I couldn’t go wrong with some red wine and oregano. Add some chicken for protein and spelt pasta for carbs and voila, dinner!
I think it turned out pretty well. The cinnamon and allspice add a bit of je ne sais quoi, and the artichoke and eggplant work nicely together as well. I’d add some spice next time, maybe some crushed chiles, but otherwise this is a pretty solid recipe.
Greek Chicken Tomato Sauce
Yield: ~ 6 servings.
Adapted from Food.com.
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
~1 lb frozen chicken breasts, thawed
2 onions, chopped
2-3 bell peppers, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 medium eggplant, 1-inch cubes
1/2 c red wine
2 14-oz cans chopped tomatoes
3 tsp oregano
1-2 bay leaves
1 14-oz cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped into sixths
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of allspice
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: pasta cooking water or chicken stock
Pasta (preferably penne rigate or other ridged pasta) for serving
First, start cooking the chicken breasts using your preferred method (I like this one, which requires 1 Tbsp olive oil). Allow to rest 5-10 minutes, then chop/shred into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers and cook until onions are translucent and peppers are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add tomato paste and eggplant. Stir to combine and cook, stirring occasionally, an additional 6-10 minutes to lightly brown the eggplant. (Don’t be afraid of residue forming on the bottom of the pan!)
Add wine and quickly scrape/stir any residue off the bottom of the pan. Let cook until most of the liquid has boiled off, then add chopped tomatoes, oregano, and bay leaves. Stir to combine thoroughly, reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer, covered, about 20 minutes.
(If you’re making pasta to go with this, start around the end of this 20 minutes.)
Add artichoke hearts, cooked chicken, cinnamon, and allspice, and let cook, uncovered, additional 10-15 minutes, until sauce has reduced to the desired consistency, chicken and artichoke hearts are heated through, and eggplant is tender. If sauce is too thick, thin with pasta cooking water or warm chicken stock. Remove bay leaves before serving.
Serving suggestion: over pasta, topped with fresh parsley, crumbled feta or grated Parmesan.