Leftover Chicken Spaghetti Sauce

“When a poor man eats a chicken, one of them is sick,” says Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. In our home when I was growing up, we could have said, “When Mom puts a chicken on the table, it disappears.”

However, when we roast a chicken (or buy a rotisserie chicken) today, we often have lots of chicken left on the platter. Now what do we do?

I think that cold chicken sandwiches are wonderful but not everyone likes them as much as I do. Here is a tasty alternative from Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s Use It All: The Leftovers Cook Book. Her recipe calls for just a half cup of leftover chicken, but I like meat on my spaghetti, and using a cupful will get rid of that bird in the fridge faster.


2 T olive oil
1 medium onion (2 to 3 inches)
1/2 cup water
1/2 to 1 cup leftover chicken
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Clean and chop the onion to a quarter-inch dice. Chop the chicken to a half inch dice. Grate about a half cup of Parmesan cheese.

Start the spaghetti water and cook the spaghetti according to directions on the package.

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onion and water and simmer three or four minutes until the onion is soft. Stir in the chicken, salt, sage and wine and simmer six or seven minutes until the liquid is reduced by about half.

Spoon the sauce over the spaghetti, sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese and serve with green salad and good bread. Pass extra Parmesan at the table.

NOTES: Sauvignon blanc and chardonnay are both acceptable wines for this dish. If you want to make the dish taste even more Italian, pinot grigio would be a good choice.

Like millions of Americans, we have a plastic jar with a green top in our refrigerator. According to the label it contains “100% REAL grated Parmesan” cheese. The cap is ingeniously designed to make it easy to sprinkle cheese on a pizza or dump lots of it into commercial spaghetti sauces.

I use this cheese-in-a-jar and appreciate the convenience, but when I am making pasta dishes that call for Parmesan cheese like Spaghetti alla Carbonara or Seafood Fettucine, I use our cheese grater on a wedge of well-aged Parmesan. You can buy a plastic rotary cheese grater for under ten dollars. The first time you use it, you will discover that the cheese in that jar with the green top has lost a lot of its flavor.

Freshly grated Parmesan turns this simple chicken spaghetti sauce into something you won’t be afraid to serve to friends.

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