Let’s talk pasta for a minute.
It’s versatile, easy to cook, cheap, and to be quite frank… frigg’in delicious!
I love to make pasta when I’m entertaining a group for dinner because I find it’s always a crowd pleaser (unless your doing the no carb thing and in that case you’ve come to the wrrrooooong blog my friend!).
A couple of weeks ago we had a movie night at our house and it happened to be one of the rare rainy California nights. It was definite cozy-time weather and I had an instantaneous craving for a creamy pasta. While I do love a good mac n’ cheese, I felt like I needed to step it up a notch in the kitchen and make something else instead of my regular creamy-pasta-go-to. I decided that with the weather being soggy and friends coming from across town, I should treat them to a warm and gooey baked pasta.
While I would love to call this a baked ziti, I’m not 100% sure that it fits the criteria of ziti-ness, but it does fit the criteria of serious comfort food!
This chicken pasta is not only a snap to make, but since Trader Joe’s carries so many delicious items, this recipe is also super convenient if time is of the essence!
What You’ll Need:
- 1 lb bag of rigatoni or penne pasta
- 1 Cup of cooked, diced chicken (I chopped mine into cubes, but you don’t have to get that fancy! Yes, I consider cubes fancy)
- Half a medium onion, diced
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- 3/4 Cup of Sliced Mushrooms (crimini or button)
- 2-3 tbsp butter
- 1/2 Cup of Sun-dried Tomatoes (I tend to use a lot of these lil’ guys because they are so tasty!)
- 1 can of artichoke hearts (I roughly chopped these so that they would be evenly distributed)
- 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
- 2-3 Tbsp of Pesto (pre-made is what I used but of course fresh is a tastier alternative)
- 1/4 c of heavy cream
- 1 lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add pasta. Cook according to directions on bag.
2. In a separate pan or skillet, add butter and melt over low to medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions begin to become transparent. Add mushrooms and let mushrooms get a little color on each side.
3. After the mushrooms have become a bit browned, add the chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts. If onion/mushroom mixture is getting too dry add a bit more olive oil or butter to pan. After the chicken, tomatoes, and artichokes have been added, pour in cream (don’t use cream straight from the refrigerator as it will curdle once added to the pan) and a healthy amount of pesto and shredded parmesan cheese. Squeeze the juice of half the lemon to the mix and stir until combined. If sauce is looking too runny, gradually add a few teaspoons of the pasta water to help thicken the sauce (the pasta water has enough starch to magically transform your sauce… it’s an awesome trick I like to use! It makes me feel sooo culinary!).
4. Let sauce cook in skillet for a few minutes and then take off the heat.
5. Once the pasta has been cooked, drain the pasta and combine the pasta and sauce mixture in the pot. (I do this to not only keep the pasta and sauce warm but also because I’m lazy and don’t want to do more dishes than necessary).
6. In a pyrex or casserole dish, spray a non-stick spray to dish (trust me… you’ll want to do this step!) and add pasta.
7. Top pasta off with more cheese and bake in broiler until the cheese is brown and bubbly. (I’m a weirdo and like to watch the cheese become browned but keeping a close eye on your pasta is also sufficient!).
8. Once browned and all full of cheesy goodness, take pasta out of the oven and let cool on the counter for a few minutes before serving. Unless you like to eat molten hot food and enjoy third-degree burns on the roof of your mouth, please omit step 8, however this kind of consumption is not recommended!
I like to serve up this pasta with a fresh green salad on the side. Nothing compliments a meal like this other than rainy weather, good friends, Netflix, and lots of wine! Bon appetite!