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Lemony Pasta with Seared Chicken + Garbanzo Beans

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
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Big Kids Plate
Toddler Plate

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Why we love it:

I was inspired to make this recipe after reading the description of a different recipe that said “so much arugula is practically a salad.” You can use spring mix or baby spinach here too but I really like how the arugula wilts down a little when tossed with the warm pasta.


  • 34 pound Chicken Tenders
  • 7 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (divided)
  • 14 cup Capers
  • 1 head Cauliflower
  • 2 cloves Garlic (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt (plus more for cooking the pasta)
  • 14 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can Garbanzo Beans
  • 14 cup Unsalted Butter
  • 8 ounces Fusilli Pasta (or preferred shape)
  • 1 Lemon (zest and juice)
  • 6 cups Arugula (baby, if you can find it)
  • 4 ounces Parmesan Cheese

Cooking Instructions

  • 2. CHICKEN

    Dice the chicken into 1" pieces or so. Heat in a large deep-sided skillet over medium-high; add 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Season the chicken with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place in one layer in the hot pan, let it sit and sear for 4 -5 minutes until golden brown and releasing from the pan. Flip the pieces over and cook the other side for 1 - 2 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.

  • 3. CAPERS

    Heat 4 Tablespoons in the same pan. Add the capers and cook, swirling the pan occasionally until they burst open and are crispy, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the capers to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside. Reserve oil in skillet.


    Slice cauliflower into florets. Then dice up the core and most of the leaves too - only remove the leaves that are yellowed or with holes, and slice off the bottom most ¼” of the core. The rest is great to cook!

    Add the cauliflower to the same skillet over medium-high heat, and stir often, until they begin to brown, about 3 minutes.

  • 5. GARLIC

    Mince the garlic while cauliflower is cooking. Then reduce the heat to low and add garlic, salt, and black pepper, to taste. Cover and cook until cauliflower begins to soften throughout, about 4 minutes long.


    Uncover and increase heat to high. Drain the beans and add them. Add 2 Tablespoons butter, and remaining 2 Tablespoons oil and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower and garbanzoes are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

  • 7. PASTA

    Meanwhile, cook pasta in the water, with a tablespoon or so of salt. Stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, but reserve 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

  • 8. FINISH

    Remove the pan with the cauliflower from the heat. Zest and lemon and set aside. Add lemon juice, ½ cup pasta cooking liquid, and remaining 2 Tablespoons. butter. Add the drained pasta, tossing and adding a little more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until nicely coated.

  • 9. SERVING

    If serving right now, toss the hot pasta/cauliflower combo with the arugula then divide among bowls, stirring to combine. Top with reserved crispy capers and heaps of parmesan cheese and zest.

    If serving anytime after 5 minutes from now, keep the arugula separate. This includes if you expect to have leftovers. You can toss with arugula once the pasta and sauce have cooled to about room temperature, that will be enough to slightly wilt but not brown the fresh greens.

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    use GF pasta, or omit pasta and make this with lentils, quinoa, or rice noodles
    seared shrimp, flaked white fish or salmon, scallops
    this dish has lots of butter. Coconut milk would taste different, but delicious. A Tablespoon of cashew cream, miso, or tahini works to give you creaminess but less butter
    leftover chicken is perfect here, dice it, shred it, and toss it in warm or cold
    green olives, pepperoncini, or green peas
    use any shape you have or like
    baby spinach, mixed greens mix, kale, chard, or use something frozen
    allergic? omit beans and use roasted diced potatoes or yams or eggplant. Use frozen corn or peas. Use chopped almonds or walnuts. Not allergic to beans, you can use white beans or cooked lentils too
    optional topping. Dotted with goat cheese is amazing too
    broccoli, green beans, eggplant, yams, any roasted veggie is great

Kid Friendly Version

Big Kids Plate
Toddler Plate

How to Tweak This Recipe for Kids:

  • Divide out the components - chicken, cooked cauliflower, pasta, beans. Serve in separate piles.
  • Try using a fun pasta shape - either just for kids or make this shape for adults too. Dinosaur pasta for the win!

For Toddlers

  • Consider steaming the cauliflower further in the microwave (cover add a bit of water and power on high in the microwave for a minute or so) and mash it with some garbanzo beans for a nice consistency
  • Shred chicken and serve on the side

For Choosy Eaters

  • Serve plain pasta and some chicken
  • Offer some cauliflower
  • For the beans - try either mashing them while warm with some butter and salt, maybe garlic powder. Or, toss with oil and salt and roast at 400 until crispy and fun!

Prep Ahead & Use It Up

  1. This dish is best cooked and served right away, or cooked ahead and served cold like a pasta salad
  2. However, you could cook the chicken ahead or use leftover chicken. And you can cook or roast the cauliflower ahead of time and let it cool before finishing the pasta later
Rate this recipe:
4 votes, average: 4.50 out of 54 votes, average: 4.50 out of 54 votes, average: 4.50 out of 54 votes, average: 4.50 out of 54 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5 (4 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)
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