Tomatillo Chicken Pasta

Roasted tomatillos, onion, and garlic pureed to make a silky pasta sauce. This tomatillo chicken pasta is a delicious way to shake-up your pasta-for-dinner night this week.

Tomatillo chicken pasta in a skillet with a white napkin around the handle

Nothing strikes fear in the hearts’ of dinner guests than the phrase “it’s an experiment”, a phrase I proudly proclaimed recently with a bag of tomatillos in one hand and a fistful of pasta in the other. The victim? My mother who had just arrived after a long two-leg flight. Conventional wisdom says it’s best to stick to what you know when serving guests, but I like to live on the edge so, without fear, I made a roasted tomatillo chicken pasta for my travel-weary mother.

And while experimenting is probably best left for nights when the stakes aren’t high, where would we be if we never walked to the edge and tried something new?

This was my attitude when I found a mound of tomatillos at the grocery store. They’re still in season and instead of falling back on the always safe salsa verde for Taco Tuesday, I thought why not pasta sauce? As I stared at them I imagined their slightly tangy and fruity insides transformed first by roasting, to coax out their sweetness, and then pureed into a silky sauce.

raw tomatillos

But, First, What Are Tomatillos?

Tomatillos are commonly used in Mexican cuisine and if you’ve ever had a green salsa most likely it was made with tomatillos. They look like little green tomatoes wrapped in a paper husk, but once you slice one you’ll notice their flesh is quite different from a tomato. It’s meatier and its flavor is more acidic and bright.

I’m taking some liberties with this recipe the biggest of which is the idea that you can take ingredients from two different cultures – in this case, Italian and Mexican – and bring them together in a new and creative way. Seeing as the word “tomatillos” translates to mean “little tomato” (even though they are pretty different!) why not use them to make a sauce for pasta? I like breaking rules and this dinner definitely does that.

And they take really well to roasting – it mellows their acidity and brings out their natural sweetness. Add some roasted garlic and onion, pop it all in a blender and you get a smooth sauce perfect for pasta.

tomatillo sauce in a blender

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Look for tomatillos near the tomatoes at the grocery store. They’re dressed up in papery husks and a sticky residue that needs to be removed before cooking.
  • In keeping with the roasting theme, I tossed a whole head of garlic and a some onion onto the sheet pan with the tomatillos.
  • A pop of fresh cilantro is stirred into the sauce as it simmers on the stove.
  • I used fettuccini, but any long pasta will work fine.
  • Crumbled feta cheese is sprinkled over the top before serving.
  • I roasted a bone-in skin-on chicken breast, diced it, and tossed it with the sauce.
  • A squeeze of fresh lime adds a bite of acidity and brightness.

With every last strand of pasta swirled on our forks and devoured I put this pasta dinner in the must-make-again column.

P.S. Thanks for being brave, mom.

Tomatillo pasta in a sliver skillet

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Tomatillo Chicken Pasta

Tomatillo Chicken Pasta

Roasting tomatillos brings out their natural sweetness and, when combined with roasted onion and garlic, makes a delicious sauce for pasta. Some cilantro and lime add a brightness making this tomatillo chicken pasta a delicious way to reinvent pasta night.

  • Author: April @ Girl Gone Gourmet
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 bone-in skin-on chicken breast, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, and quartered
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 8 ounces fettuccine
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
  2. Slice the top off the head of garlic so the tips of the cloves are exposed. Place the garlic on a sheet of tin foil, drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over the top, and wrap the garlic in the foil. Rub the chicken breast with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and place it on the baking sheet along with the garlic. Roast them for 15 minutes.
  3. Toss the tomatillos and onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once the chicken and garlic have roasted for 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and place the tomatillos and onion on it. Return the pan to the oven and continue roasting for another 30 minutes (see note).
  4. Towards the end of the roasting time, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the fettuccine and cook it according to package directions.
  5. Transfer the tomatillos and onion to a blender. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from the head of garlic and add them to the blender. Puree the vegetables until smooth.
  6. Remove the skin and bone from the chicken breast. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  7. Transfer the puree to a large skillet and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the chicken stock, chopped cilantro, and salt. Add the chicken and stir it all together. Transfer the pasta to skillet with the sauce and, using tongs, toss it all together until the pasta is coated in the sauce. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 a lime over the top.
  8. Top each serving with a 1/2 tablespoon of the crumbled feta cheese.

Notes

I use one large, approximately 1 pound, bone-in skin-on chicken breast for this recipe. Be sure to check the internal temperature before removing the chicken from the oven. It should read at 165 degrees.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
  • Calories: 463
  • Sugar: 4.9g
  • Sodium: 703.1mg
  • Fat: 12.6g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.6g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 8.2g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 51.1g
  • Fiber: 3.3g
  • Protein: 35.2g
  • Cholesterol: 87.4mg

Keywords: tomatillo sauce, tomatillo pasta

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23 Comments

  1. I doubled the recipe and served it to a group of friends. It was a big hit! This also freezes well so I can make ahead and enjoy when tomatillos aren’t in season.

  2. I’ve never cooked with tomatillos before….I’ve always been a little afraid of them, lol. But I think I will definitely give this sauce a try!

  3. I love tomatillos! Such a fun idea to use them with pasta. This recipe has so much flavor!

  4. I used basil instead of cilantro (because have SO much in the garden this year) & used more like what a “bunch” of cilantro would be (a lot), added ricotta to offset the acidity of the tomatillos (& had some in the fridge), used a little more hot pepper than this recipe indicates – was really over the top delicious!!

  5. Love this. So glad I found in my search.
    My change to you delish recipe. I hate using my oven in the summer .
    So I roasted the tomatillos and onion in a cast iron fry pay pany on the barbeque. I found a trick for roasting garlic , I put them in silicone cupcake cups then wrap those in all together in the foil. (I roasted 4 so hand roasted garlic bread)
    I only had skinless boned chicken breast so I gave them a small flatten s&p and gilled on que next to pan. Used all your times and ingredients. It was so tasty . Thank you for your experiment. It 2as delish…

  6. This recipe inspired me to make it for dinner tonight. Roasted tomatillos, poblanos, garlic head and onion. Blended lightly, added a dollop of yogurt and topped with feta. I used penne pasta. Will be making this again and again! Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. A friend gave me a bag of tomatillos from her garden. I’d only ever used them for salsa, but did a search for how to use tomatillos in recipes. Your pasta recipe came up. I have all of the ingredients and will make it for our dinner tonight. It looks and sounds delicious!

    1. About four to six depending on how big they are. A little more or less won’t make a big difference. Hope that helps!

      1. We made it tonight and it was amazing ! I usually make a full box of pasta so I think next time I’ll double the sauce ! Do you think two garlic heads is to much , if I’m doubling everything ?

        1. I’m so glad you liked it! I don’t think two heads of garlic is too much – roasting it really mellows the flavor.

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