If you’ve ever watched a rotisserie chicken turning slowly on a spit—my local supermarket has several going at once— then you’ve seen the tray underneath the birds to catch the drippings. Those drippings are gold!
Now, imagine those chickens roasting over a baking dish filled with pasta: All those juices from the bird would drip into the pasta and give it an unbelievably delicious roasty flavor.
This idea of roasting meat on top of other ingredients is actually an ancient technique from when individual families didn’t have their own ovens, and cooks brought pans of meat or poultry and whatever went with it to the local baker to roast in the baker’s big oven. This approach inspired this recipe.
I have roasted chicken over every imaginable vegetable, fruit, and starch, but I particularly love angel hair because the pasta is so absorbent and acts like a sponge for the cooking juices. Cook the thin strands in boiling water first, drain them, and arrange them in a baking dish. Add canned tomatoes for a little color and flavor, and then set chicken pieces on top.
While the chicken roasts, the juices from both the chicken and the tomatoes seep into the angel hair, forming a luscious savory nest that you can cut with the edge of a spoon or a knife. The pasta remains tender, but the strands at the edge of the dish become appealingly crispy.
I like to roast whole legs (thighs attached to drumsticks) and breasts that are large enough to make two servings. I prefer to use bone-in chicken because it’s juicier and more flavorful — perfect for basting the pasta while it cooks. You could also roast a whole chicken, but be sure to spatchcock it first so that it roasts quickly and finishes at the same time as the pasta.
To serve, cut the large pieces of chicken into smaller individual servings. Use a large spoon to scoop some pasta onto the plates, then top with chicken. A green salad on the side is all you need to make it a complete meal.