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Diagnose My Flat-Tasting Pasta

Jim Leff | Jan 12, 201206:27 PM

I chopped some meat cut off a couple chicken thighs, and tossed that plus the meaty bones into a hot Cuisinart 3-1/2-Quart saute pan containing a tablespoon of olive oil and half a chopped onion sauteed soft.

I added two carrots sliced fine, sprinkled in a good amount of pepper, some salt, Spanish smoked paprika, and some Penzey's crushed jalapeƱo.

I let it sautee a while, then added some Trader Joe's chicken stock and covered (probably too soon; see note at bottom)

Meanwhile, I started boiling a couple handfuls of small-ish pasta.

After a few mins, I added (to the saute pan) some bite-sized cut-up asparagus and broccolini, and grated in a good amount of fresh ginger. I added more chicken broth, which unfortunately cooled the pan. It took a while to get back to simmer. Covered again.

I cooked the pasta a minute short, drained most of the water, and threw pasta and a few TBS of cooking water into the saute pan. I added a bit of sherry vinegar, cranked the heat, and stirred aggressively for a minute. And served (finished with a drizzle of some good EVOO).

And...it was just ok. Like every pasta dish I've ever made, it was flat and zingless. No Italian soul at all (and I grew up in an Italian nabe....thought I was Italian, in fact, for most of my childhood).

Can anyone figure out where I went wrong? I know I could have added garlic (I was out of it), mushrooms...there were lots of things I could have added to make it a slightly different dish. But I've added garlic and other stuff in the past, to little effect. So I'm asking a bigger question: where am I going wrong, generally?

Two observations on my end: I regret killing the simmer with all that cold chicken broth (I should have added more gradually), and I probably should have gone further with the chicken/onion saute, and deglazed before adding broth and finishing with a braise.

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