Today we're just keeping things simple with something you can make in under 40 minutes for dinner during the crazy work week (or even this weekend for a special Valentine's Day "in." It stars something that I think screams springtime: fresh bright green asparagus! It's just gorgeous, and plays together so well with the crispy bacon, juicy morsels of herbed chicken, whole grain penne, and a thick sauce that hugs every one of these lovely flavors perfectly.
Utah is having a little dementia when it comes to figuring out what season it is, right now, though. So the morning can start out with a piercing blue sky, high 60's, a slight warm breeze flowing through the branches on the trees, and the promise of a full day at the park and flip flops on our feet.
Fast forward only a half hour later, storm clouds, rain, and back down to the low 40's. There's still no snow, which is incredibly unusual for Utah in February, so I guess I can't complain.
But for food blogging, and light-sensitive-time-sensitive-everything-sensitive food photography, it's completely obnoxious. So please bear with me as I'm still learning how to use this crazy thing, and make deals with mother nature's temper here in Utah!
This pasta has some really hearty and beautiful components. First, the creamy noodles. Normally, I'm not a fan of using cream cheese at the end of creating my roux, but I think it actually works in this pasta dish - mostly because it really helps fold the different flavors together, and soften down the herb bite from the chicken.
Next, is the chicken. We basically coat each of these in some oregano, thyme and basil. Normally, I don't mix fresh and dried herbs, but my sweet little planter box of herbs by our window is producing like crazy, and and I didn't have any dried basil on hand. Fresh it was, then! And it tasted amazing!
Okay, so for the bacon part, I have a little secret. I forgot to save a few strips of bacon from when we made "breakfast for dinner" the night before, so we were left without any bacon for this dish. Fortunately, I had some deli ham from my husband's lunches. I salted them up and fried them up in a pan until they were nice and crispy. My husband had no clue we even used ham, and complimented me on how much he liked the bacon in this dish! Haha.
Next, the asparagus! I cheated by not using a steamer, or extra pan in cooking them. I just tossed them right into the boiling pasta pot within the last 2 minutes or so of cooking. It cooked up perfectly, and then I drained it right along with my pasta. Easy, peasy!
Lastly, mix it all together in the large pan when you make your sauce, and everything will come together beautifully really quick. Serve this with a few sprinkles of parmesan, and a side of fresh fruit, and you'll be all set for dinner. Serve it right away, and watch it get devoured super fast!
Creamy Chicken and Asparagus with
Whole Grain Pasta and Bacon
makes 6 servings
1 lb boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, trimmed and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 T olive oil
1 T freshly chopped basil
1 t dried oregano
1/4 t dried thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
12oz whole grain penne pasta
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and diced
1 1/2 T butter
2 cloves garlic
1 3/4 C milk
1/4 C cream
3oz light cream cheese, diced
1/3 C parmesan cheese, grated
5 sliced bacon, cooked until crisp, then crumbled
1. In a small bowl, stir together basil, oregano, thyme, and about 1/4 t salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle half the herb mixture evenly over tops of cubed raw chicken, then place them into the pan (herbed side down). Sprinkle the rest of the herb mixture over the chicken, then cook chicken through (about 8 minutes per side). Stay close and watch the chicken, cook until cooked through completely, then transfer to a plate and cover with a lid to keep moist.
2. Cook pasta according to directions on the package, and add in asparagus about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes before the end. Drain pasta and asparagus.
3. In a different clean (large) skillet, melt butter over medium heat, whisk in flour and cook 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic and cook 20 seconds longer, stirring constantly. Slowly pour in milk, then the cream, still stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil. Once the sauce thickens, reduce heat to medium-low, and stir in the cheeses. When all the lumps are gone, add in pasta, cooked chicken, steamed asparagus, and bacon. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve with more grated parmesan.
recipe adapted from: Cooking Classy