One of my favorite staples in college was the cheap packets of “Pasta-Roni” or “Hamburger Helper”. Was it a healthy choice? Probably not. It was, however, comforting and tasty. I’ve been experimenting the last few weeks with a more wholesome version of the “chicken-flavored pasta” to reclaim an inexpensive family-friendly dinner. This is a great dish to pull out if you have leftover chicken cutlets, or you can sauté some chicken breasts to accompany the pasta dish on the side. It’s a one-pot meal and you’ll be cooking the pasta right in the sauce.
Chicken Pasta (Serves 2-3)
Feel free to substitute other vegetables you have on hand (peas, carrots, celery, even spinach), but I highly recommend making sure you have the bell pepper at least. It imparts a nice color and a stronger flavor.
- cutting board and knife
- 1-2 lb. cooked chicken breast
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1-2 carrots, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 cup chopped broccoli
- 1.5 c. chicken broth (Try to use a good quality bone broth.)
- 1/2 c. milk or half-and-half
- 1.5 c. short pasta (rotini, macaroni, wagon wheels, etc.)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook about 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add the chicken broth, milk, and pasta. Bring to simmer.
- Simmer on medium heat about 10-12 minutes, until the pasta is finished. The liquid should be reduced as the pasta soaks it up. You want to see some thickening.
- Let the pasta stand off heat for about 5 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.
- Heat the cooked chicken (if you haven’t made it fresh) while the sauce thickens.
- Slice the chicken into thin strips.
- Place the pasta on plates, then top with the chicken strips. Add any salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with a side salad.
- If you want a saltier flavor, you can add 1 tbsp. chicken bouillon to the cooking liquid.
- This recipe scales nicely for larger families and makes great leftovers.
- If you choose to use or add peas to the dish, I recommend using fresh or frozen ones (not canned) and adding at the end when the pasta is just about finished cooking.
- You can even use canned chicken if you’re needing a quick meal. I’ve also eaten this pasta with canned salmon or tuna.
- The pasta shape does matter a bit. Really fat pastas like rigatoni take up a larger volume, so you’ll be using less pasta in the dish and end up with a soupier sauce. Stick with the smaller shapes.