Thursday, May 5, 2011

Southwestern Baked Chicken Pasta

   I would say after an 11 hour drive your brain is not functioning at its full capacity.  This explains why I cooked four whole chicken breasts when two would have sufficed.  Needless to say I had a lot of leftover chicken that I needed to figure out how to use.  Also, it already had a chili powder seasoning on it.  That limits the possibilities a bit.  This is what came out of it and it was pretty delicious.  I had one serving the night I cooked it and the hubs ate the rest (a huge portion the night of and another huge portion for lunch the following day.)  I didn't expect that; I thought I would have lunch out of it too.  At least I know he thoroughly enjoyed it!

   This is perfect for leftover chicken.  If you are making chicken quesadillas for dinner one night, go ahead and cook some extra chicken to make this pasta dish later in the week.  Or a rotisserie chicken would be fantastic.  Or... you know, you could leave out the chicken.  It would be great without it; maybe some grilled shrimp on the side.  There is corn and tomatoes in here, but a simple salad or roasted/steamed green veggie on the side rounds out the entire meal
Southwestern Baked Chicken Pasta
12 oz whole wheat penne pasta
2 cooked chicken breasts, roughly chopped (~2.5 C shredded chicken)
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 med onion, chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1.5 C chicken broth
1/2 C buttermilk
1 Tbsp cider vinegar (or other mild vinegar)
3 oz room temp light cream cheese
1 C shredded cheese (any kind you like: pepper jack, cheddar, etc.)
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 C frozen corn
1 chipotle, minced
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper
cooking spray
chopped cilantro and scallions (optional)

   Cook pasta about 1 minute shy of being done.
   Heat olive oil over med heat.  Add onion, cook until tender and translucent.  Add garlic, saute about 1 min.  Melt in butter, add flour and whisk out lumps.  Slowly add broth and buttermilk, whisking constantly.  Whisk in vinegar, cream cheese, and shredded cheese.  Add tomatoes, corn, chipotle and chili powder.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Heat through and bring to a bubble.  When sauce has thickened a little (it should take about 4-5 min), fold in chicken and pasta.
   Lightly spray a 13x9 baking dish.  Pour pasta into dish. 
   Bake uncovered at 350 deg F for 20-25 minutes.  (If made ahead and refrigerated, add 5-10 minutes to cook time.)  Sprinkle cilantro and scallions on top before serving.
   Serves 6 (normal sized portions... It all depends on who exactly you are feeding and the side dishes available)

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