Shawarma, is an Arabic term meaning turning with reference to cooking meat on the rotisserie. This meat, either beef or chicken, is sliced thinly and served in warm pita like wrap, then topped with hummus and cucumbers. Shawarma is most often rubbed with warming spices, not hot – but earthy seasonings loaded with flavor. When I lived in San Francisco with my husband, there was the most amazing shawarma café in the Castro. I remember sharing one of their delightful chicken shawarmas with him and thinking about all the layers of flavor, and how many hours they cooked the meat to make it taste that good. This recipe is my easier take on this dish, but in pasta form, using chicken thighs that are sautéed hot in a pan, not anywhere near the process of true shawarma, but with tastes reminiscent of my San Francisco experience.
Turmeric is very popular spice with all its anti-inflammatory health benefits, and you can find it at any grocery store. Also, it is the spice that gives foods its unique deep orange hue, predominantly in curries and Indian food. It’s flavor is hard to recognize when it is mixed with paprika, cardamom and other Eastern spices, but the combination is earthy and fragrant — something everyone should keep in their pantry. This pasta dish is creamy with a slight chew because of the large pasta noodles that capture the sauce in its grooves. The herby chicken cubes offer a tasty protein to the pasta, which might even bring you back to a time when you were enjoying a shawarma at your local Mediterranean grill.
1 pound chicken thighs, boneless skinless
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 white onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound Rigatoni pasta
1/3 cup fresh parsley, rough chopped
1. Dice chicken into cubes, set aside. In a small bowl, combine paprika, turmeric, onion powder, cardamom, salt and pepper. Toss chicken cubes with dried herb mixture, set aside.
2. In a large iron skillet over medium heat, add 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add chicken and sauté for 4 minutes or until mostly cooked through.
3. Cook pasta in salted water for 10 minutes or until al dente. Pour chicken broth into chicken mixture and stir to combine. Make a well in center of pan and add yogurt and cream, stir incorporating sauce and chicken.
4. Using a slotted spoon or spider, place cooked rigatoni into chicken mixture. Toss to coat rigatoni and sprinkle with parsley. Serve family-style. Enjoy!