Usually Deb makes this dish, but I did last night, rather than making random chicken and eating rice a third night in a row. Not that there’s anything wrong with rice, but we have all that pasta on the shelf…
The great thing is that this is so easy, yet it seems fancy to people. It’s something I only ever had in restaurants before I got married.
You will need:
2 – 3 boneless chicken breasts
Bag of frozen broccoli, or similar amount fresh
Jar of alfredo sauce
Pound of shaped pasta
Spices to taste
Dab of butter or oil
The only thing tricky is the simultaneous nature and timing of some of this.
Trim and cut the chicken into small chunks. You know, like half an inch, maybe.
Put on water for the pasta so it can think about boiling on time.
Have water ready to go for the broccoli, or if you’re using fresh, it could go in the steamer most any time.
Heat some butter or oil in a frying pan, adding some spices. For this, the dominant flavor is generally garlic. I use garlic powder, black pepper, red pepper, and not necessarily anything else. Last night I also used garlic flakes, a touch of oregano, and some thyme as an experiment. It came out particularly good. This is a dish you could make with no spice at all, if you like it plain but for the flavors of the sauce and ingredients.
Fry up the chicken until fully cooked to somewhat browned.
Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water per instructions. I’d avoid spaghetti, and some shapes are better for how they look or carry the sauce, but you can use any pasta shape. I used penne rigatti last night, letting Sadie choose between that, our usual favorite rotini, and shells. Funny, as that was what I’d leaned toward.
I added the frozen broccoli to the boiling water shortly after that. This is a great use for frozen, even the chopped stuff that uses more of the stems than we normally would. It is better with fresh, steamed to slightly underdone. Frozen is convenient. I used Wal-Mart’s brand and it was excellent. I’m sure we used that brand before and didn’t like it as much, even though their other basic frozen veggies – corn, peas, French cut green beans, and lima beans – are our favorite store brands. We used either Hannaford or Market Basket store brand broccoli one time and found it was vastly superior to anything but fresh. Silly I can’t remember which it was.
Toward the time everything else is ready, pour a jar of creamy alfredo sauce into a small saucepan and heat gently on low, stirring as needed to keep it from bubbling for joy. A small flexible spatula thingie is your friend, for maximizing what actually comes out of the jar.
There seem to be two primary name brands in stores around here. We prefer Classico, no contest, to everything else we have tried, store or name brand. Unlike red sauce, which I adulterate to taste anyway, it really matters, but YMMV. We also prefer the plain old, rather than the variants like 4 Cheese or whatever. It might be interesting to try making my own someday, but it’s so convenient just to buy it.
When everything is done, drain the pasta and get it back into the pan. Drain the broccoli (or scoop it with something that leaves the water behind). Dump the chicken and broccoli onto the pasta. Dump in the sauce. Mix it up thoroughly. Serve.
The kids like it better than just about anything except sweets and maybe pasta with red sauce, and I’m not so sure about that. Last night Valerie required two refills of her plate, and Sadie ate most of what was on her plate.
Ah, then there’s the leftovers…
Suppose you ate half or so of that big pan and put the rest in the fridge. What I do the next day is put it on lowish heat on the stove, with maybe a dribble of water to help keep it moist enough. I cut some small chunks of cheese, usually cheddar, maybe some jack too or instead if it’s what we have, mixing and melting that in. Then we eat the cheesy version as leftovers at least as yummy as it was the night before. Microwaving servings of it also works well; it’s an excellent dish for leftovers.