Chicken Roll-Ups

I don’t know what the fascination about roll-ups is, but while I was thinking about this recipe, I realized that in Italy we tend to roll everything up, from pasta to meat to frittata to crepes-like desserts. There are dozens of recipes calling for something rolled up and stuffed with something else. Maybe it is the luxury of combining very different ingredients and thus tastes and textures in one bite. Or maybe is the necessity – like it was probably the case for today’s suggestion- to make the meat last as long as possible (for economic reasons) and to complement it with other much more available and cheap ingredients.

Rolled-up food is intriguing, elegant, subtle, and an open field for the fantasy. You can prepare the filling of your choice, with all possible variations based on your pantry content, and the ahs and ohs will only multiply around the table.

Today’s recipe is very easy re inspiration, it just requires a few skills – that can be learned on the go. While the results are gorgeous and are apt for a festive table dressed up for a family reunion. Also, it is a fun and easy way to limit the intake of white meat while feeling completely satisfied. For the filling, I opted for a very Mediterranean one, with black olives, sundried tomatoes, walnuts.

My selection is not exclusively dictated by the taste of the final dish: sundried tomatoes are a wonderful source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C, fiber and protein. Olives have similar properties, and contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid linked to many health benefits. Walnuts, when used in small quantities, are a powerhouse in itself; they have the highest content of antioxidants and Omega-3 fat among the nuts, they nourish the healthy bacteria living in our guts, they support healthy aging, reducing inflammation in the brain. All this benefits in just 1 oz a day of walnuts.

So, this filling is in itself a recipe that makes healthy sailing through the holiday’s meals a breeze!

Serves 4

  • 2 organic chicken breasts
  • Pitted black olives, Kalamata style, walnuts and sundried tomatoes – approximately 1/3 of a cup of each ingredient to ½ a cup, depending on how big the chicken breast is.
  • 2-3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Parmigiano, grated
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • a piece of orange peel
  • ½ cup cooking white wine
  • Sage, rosemary, basil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. In a food processor, process sundried tomatoes, garlic, basil, orange peel and breadcrumbs until chopped finely.

2. Add olives and walnuts, pulse again a couple of times but not too much, better to under process so that you keep some texture.

3. Add Parmigiano, pulse again briefly. You should have a crumbly, thick paste.

4. Add some pepper or even chili, but do not add salt as olives and sundried tomatoes are salty enough.

5. Butterfly the chicken breast, making sure you have no holes. Gently flatten with a meat mallet.

6. Spread the mixture evenly on the 2 chicken breasts, making sure you leave ½ an inch border bare.

7. Start rolling the meat from the wider side. Fold in the two sides as you go. Roll tight squeezing a little bit with your hands.

8. Using toothpicks, sew the edge of the roll. Make sure you put all the toothpicks on the same side, so you can brown the meat on all sides without the interference of the toothpicks.

9. Pour some EVOO in a nonstick pan, add some sage and a couple of garlic cloves. When hot, add the chicken rolls, let them brown on that side before attempting to turn the on the next side. When completely browned, pour the white wine and let evaporate.

10. Transfer the rolls and sauce with 2 thongs to an oiled ovenproof dish, as small as possible, sewed side down.

11. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and cook in the preheated oven at 350F for 30 minutes.

12. Turn off the oven and leave the chicken in there covered for 20 more minutes.

13. Remove the aluminum cover, gently turn the rolls so to expose the toothpicks. Remove the toothpicks by gently twisting them before pulling them out, so that the meat does not break.

14. Cut each roll in two diagonally or slice with a very sharp knife, using a gentle sewing motion. Pour the remaining sauce on the meat.

15. Enjoy with a side of vegetables.

A Few Notes:

  • You can modify the filling as you wish, the result will always be great.
  • I used dry sundried tomatoes, but if you use the ones preserved in oil it also works, just make sure to drain them well.
  • Thin cut breast cutlets do not work well for this recipe, as they are not wide enough. You could instead ask the butcher to butterfly the chicken breasts if you feel it is a daunting task for you.

Elisabetta Ciardullo is the founder of Think Italian! Events. As Personal Chef she is an ambassador of the Italian cuisine and culture, bringing it into the private homes of Americans, as well as to many corporate clients in Los Angeles.