Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Chicken Penne with Cream Sauce

I don't know if that name does this dish justice.  It is sooo creamy, sooo zingy! One of those, 'melts in your mouth' type of dishes! Right now it's pepper season, too, so it's the perfect dish to use up some of those tangy red peppers you have. They add a little bit more fun to this already rockin' recipe.  In fact, there are nights I make this a completely vegetarian dish by adding more peppers and mushrooms and eliminating the chicken, and it's still an amazing meal!

Great for a weeknight, it goes together quickly and easily. It's all done in one skillet, minimizing dishes (except the pasta of course) and making for an easy clean up.  I can't say enough good things about this one. It's a great meal to eat the night before a big bike ride or run, too.  It gives me all the energy I need to have a great next day. Wonderful balance between protein, carbs, and veggies. And who can resist a little garlic bread to go with it!?! Oh, makes my mouth water just writing about it!

Although it needs to be served immediately for the creamiest of sauces, it re-heats like a dream! Even when re-heated, the sauce is creamy and dreamy, and of course the pasta, chicken and veggies hold it together to make the dish taste as good as the night you made it! Love when leftovers do that!

Chicken Penne with Cream Sauce

1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 - 1 1/2 lbs chicken cut into chunks
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
8 oz white button mushrooms, quartered
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 c dry penne pasta
1 c reserved pasta water
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
3 Tbs parsley, chopped (optional)

Boil the penne pasta according to package instructions.  Make sure to flavor with a little salt. Reserve one cup of pasta water before draining the rest. Set that aside for now.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot but not smoking, season the chicken with a little salt and pepper and place in the skillet.  Brown on all sides, about 10 minutes, but don't cook through. Add the peppers and mushrooms and cook until softened and chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Most of the liquid created from the meat and veggies should be cooked down at this point.

Add the garlic and allow to cook for 1 minute. Then, add the reserved pasta water, the cream cheese (cut into small chunks for easier melting), and the heavy cream. Bring to a simmer and allow the cheese to completely soften. Add the 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper, and the parsley and stir. Finally, add the parmesan and the pasta and stir together. Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Recipe Source: Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe; Creamy Orzo with Chicken, Mushrooms, and Red Peppers.

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