This pasta dish comes from Peru, where it is the second most popular pasta dish after tallarines verdes - green pasta. The distinctive flavor in this sauce comes from a combination of ají panca chile paste and ground porcini mushrooms. —Carlos C. Olaechea
boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 1” pieces
salt and pepper to taste
achiote oil or vegetable oil (see note)
Pat the chicken dry and season with cumin, salt, and pepper.
Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the chicken in a single layer and brown, about 1 minute each side. When chicken is browned, transfer to a bowl and set aside. Repeat with remaining chicken, careful not to crowd the pot, until you have browned all the chicken.
Once you have removed the last of the chicken, add the bayleaf and cook for a few seconds to release the aroma. Now reduce the heat to medium.
Add onion and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, for about 30 seconds. Stir in ají panca and cook until oil separates from the mixture.
Add the carrots along with a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes or until carrots are no longer raw. They will still be crunchy. Add chicken stock and bring to a rapid simmer. Now stir in the tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Bring to a rapid simmer.
Add chicken, porcini, and oregano. Bring to a rapid simmer again, and then reduce to medium low. Simmer uncovered for about 30-45 minutes until the carrots are very tender and break apart easily
Meanwhile, boil the pasta to desired doneness. Drain and dress with the sauce and chicken. Serve with parmesan cheese and ají sauce.
Note: achiote oil is made by gently frying annatto seeds in a neutral oil over low heat until the oil turns a deep red color. This oil is used to color and add flavor to many Latin American dishes, and each cook usually makes a large batch to keep on hand. If you do not have achiote oil, simply use vegetable oil and add a ½ teaspoon annatto powder at step number six. Ají panca paste is a dried red chile paste that is important in Peruvian cuisine. You can find jars of the paste online or at a well-stocked South American grocery store. If you cannot find it, omit it from the recipe.
I was born in Peru to a Limeño father and a Texan mother. We moved to Miami when I was five, and I grew up in the "Kendall-suyo" neighborhood—often called the 5th province of the Inca Empire because of its large Peruvian population. I've been writing about food since I was 11 years old, and in 2016 I received a master's degree in Gastronomy from Boston University. A travel columnist at Food52, I'm currently based in Hollywood, Florida—another vibrant Peruvian community—where I am a writer, culinary tour guide, and consultant.