Isn’t it nice when you experience that rare occasion when everyone in your family eats the meal you prepared, with no complaints? I know my kids aren’t nearly as difficult about eating as some, but I still have to endure a few requests for other foods (ice cream, peanut butter, fruit snacks, cookies…why do they think I’ll give them these for dinner?) before they’ll relent and try what I’ve served them. The youngest, in particular, will loudly lobby for anything other than what is on her tray, regardless of what it is.
I am therefore happy to report that this recipe has been well-received by everyone on multiple occasions. The chicken is juicy and flavorful, and the noodles are creamy and cheesy. We love this versatile alfredo sauce recipe, which is lightened up from the traditional cream sauce but still tastes rich and delicious. It’s from the great cooks over at Our Best Bites, and we use it all the time.
I used to use a brand of whole grain pasta that was made with about 50% whole wheat. However, I found a great sale on Ronzoni pasta, which is 100% wheat, with no other ingredients. Not having tried it before, I took a risk and stocked up on it because the price was too good to pass up. Thankfully, it turned out to be great pasta. One important note about whole wheat pasta though—I always cook it way longer than the box says, sometimes twice as long. This is partially because I live at a high altitude, and partially because I like soft pasta. This is what it takes for me to reach a soft, smooth pasta with whole wheat though, so if you haven’t liked whole wheat pasta in the past, you might try cooking it longer and see what happens. Or just use white pasta, or gluten-free, or grass pasta, or bird pasta…or whatever. One thing I love about whole wheat pasta is that it doesn’t get all mushy-starchy like white pasta; it retains its texture very well.
The blackening rub for the chicken is from Amber at Dessert Now, Dinner Later, and it’s easy and delicious. It has only a slight bit of heat, but you could reduce or omit the cayenne pepper if you wish. I broil the chicken because it isn’t convenient for me to grill right now (did I mention the wind and the freshly plowed fields? I ate some really gritty hot dogs the other day…). But they would definitely be great grilled, too.
The best part about this meal is it looks and tastes like fine dining, but it’s actually really easy. You might serve it with a tossed green salad and crusty bread, and perhaps some fresh fruit.
adapted from Dessert Now, Dinner Later
- 1 12-13.5 oz box whole wheat pasta
- 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded or sliced to 1/2 inch thickness
- 1 TBS + 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp dried ginger
- 1/4 tsp dried sage
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 TBS canola oil
- 1 TBS butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 TBS flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups low-fat milk
- 1/3 cup (3 oz) low-fat cream cheese
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly shredded
- Ground black pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, preheat your broiler with the top rack a few inches from the heating element, and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Combine the chili powder, ginger, sage, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, black pepper, salt, and oil in a small bowl. Use your hands to massage the spice mixture into the chicken breasts until they are thoroughly coated.
Place the chicken breasts in a single layer on the foil-lined sheet so that they aren't touching each other. Broil 7-12 minutes on each side until the internal temperature is 165*. Remember to leave the oven door open slightly while broiling. (Alternately, you could grill the chicken.) Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
Combine flour, salt, milk, and cream cheese in a blender and process until smooth. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When butter is melted, saute garlic for about 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring contstantly. Add the milk mixture to the pan. Cook and stir over medium heat for several minutes, stirring constantly. It will come to a simmer and then begin to thicken. When sauce is thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until melted. Season with a few cracks of black pepper if desired. Immediately cover the pan and let it sit for 10 minutes before using. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
When pasta and chicken are ready, arrange chicken over pasta and drizzle with alfredo sauce.
Leftover alfredo sauce can be refrigerated or frozen. It becomes very thick when cold, so when you want to use it, heat it and add milk until you reach the consistency you want.
Linked at: Living Well Spending Less