There's more to this pasta dish than just chicken, olives, and feta. There are some artichoke hearts, fresh oregano, and a lemon vinaigrette — a whole mess of salty, tangy flavors.
The idea for this recipe started with a leftover container of olives. I was imagining a pasta that mimicked a Greek salad, so we shopped for some feta cheese and a few fresh (pitted) olives to supplement the ones we had (which we had to pit — whew).
For my chicken, I roasted skin-on, bone-in breasts, which are cheaper than skinless, boneless breasts and stay moist in the oven. I rubbed them with a paste of oregano, garlic, lemon zest, and olive oil and simply shredded the meat once it was cooked.
At first, the amount of lemon vinaigrette I made seemed like too much, but the hot pasta absorbed it easily, and it provided a great burst of flavor. Since I just ate the leftovers for lunch, I can attest to the fact that this pasta is great cold, too.
The entire time I was making this pasta for dinner what I was really thinking about was how amazing the leftovers would be for lunch the next day. (They were!) And that extra time for the flavors to meld together even exceeded my expectations.
This is also the kind of pasta that can be served room temperature or even chilled, and definitely deserves a place as a barbecue and picnic side dish.
Spiral pasta shapes, like fusilli or rotini (which is what Elizabeth originally used in her recipe), are ideal for this kind of dish. The nooks and layers are perfect for capturing the feta crumbles, bits of fresh herbs, and the lemony vinaigrette.
For the chicken:
2 medium skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons chopped, fresh oregano (see this post on converting to dried oregano)
2 small (or one large) cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
For the vinaigrette:
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
For the pasta:
1 pound fusilli or other pasta
12 ounces marinated artichoke hearts, halved or quartered into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups pitted olives (kalamata or any mediterranean mix)
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon chopped, fresh oregano
Handful of chopped, fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Pat the chicken breasts dry and lay them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Mix the remaining ingredients together to form a paste, and rub it over both chicken breasts, making sure to get some of the mixture underneath the skin and in any folds of the meat. Sprinkle with extra salt and pepper.
Roast chicken for about 25 minutes, until cooked through (the skin does not need to brown). Remove and allow to cool slightly, then peel back the skin, remove the meat, and shred it into bite-sized chunks. Try to scrape as much of the seasonings as possible off the skin and bones, so you can add it to the pasta along with the chicken.
While the chicken is cooking, make the vinaigrette. Mix the lemon juice with the salt and pepper, then slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. Set aside.
Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water. While it's cooking, combine the artichoke hearts, olives, and shredded chicken (plus any juices and spices on the cutting board) in a large bowl. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the bowl. Pour over the vinaigrette, then add the feta cheese. Mix everything together, then sprinkle in the extra oregano and parsley, if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe has been updated — originally published November 2008.