Friday, January 9, 2009

RR's Southwestern Pasta Bake

I have the Rachel Ray 365: No Repeats (Clarkson Potter/Publishers; New York; 2005) cookbook and I've made a handfull of recipes from it; most of them have been very tasty. I'm a big fan of RR and I'm rarely disappointed with her creations so I'm anxious to try lots of things in this book.

I was in search of something simple last night and as I was flipping through the book (with hardly any pictures = bad), I came across the Southwestern Pasta Bake. Because there are only 2 of us, I halved the recipe below, which is for four (but I've found when RR says for four, it could usually serve more than that). So below is the recipe from the cookbook. In parenthesis next the ingredients are my notes.

Southwestern Pasta Bake

Course salt
1 lb penne rigate or cavatappi (I used whole wheat penne)
2 T vegetable oil
4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
1 T ground cumin
1 T ground corriander
2 T chile powder
Course black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 T unsalted butter
2 T all-purpose flour
2 c Milk (I used skim because it's what I had; would have been better with whole!)
3/4 lb [or 2 1/2 cups] sharp yellow cheddar cheese, shredded (even by halfing the recipe, I used 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 c fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (I omitted because I didn't have any)
1/2 c fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped (by halfing the recipe, I used 1 T dried parsley)

Preheat the broiler to high and position rack 8 inches from the heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salk the boiling water and cook pasta until slightly undercooked - a little chewy in the center.

While the water is coming to a boil, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil. Season the chicken with cumin, corriander, chili powder, salt and pepper. Add the seasoned chicken to the hot skillet and cook until slightly brown, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, and jalapenos and continue to cook for 5 minutes. While the chicken is cooking with the onions, make the Cheddar sauce.

In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter and add the flour to it. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes over moderate heat, then whisk in milk. When milk comes to a bubble, stir in cheese, cilantro, and parsley with a wooden spoon (I continued with the whisk). Season with a little salt and pepper and remove the cheese sauce from the heat.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it back into the large pot, add the contents of the chicken skillet and all the Cheddar sauce, and stir to combine. Transfer to baking dish and place under the broiler to lightly brown.

My thoughts:

  • It was difficult to tell when the chicken was browning because there was so much seasoning! Below is raw chicken with seasoning.

  • I believe I used too much seasoning on the chicken because as I was biting into the pieces, it was kind of gritty. My fault though because I added more seasoning than called for but I was nervous of it being too bland (and I used only .83 lbs chicken).
  • The little extra cheese I added was delicious!I left if it under the broiler for too long so the top got hard. I think you could almost not do the broiling part and just serve it from the pot after being mixed together.
  • The dish was very flavorful and I very much enjoyed it (except for the grittiness).
  • When Greg walked in the house, he said it smelled like tacos, so I guess it was pretty southwestern!
  • Thank you Rachel... I loved it!

1 comment:

  1. i also love this recipe! its a huge hit with all my friends and most of my family (i ahve two very picky boys!). the problem you had with the chicken, i always brown the chicken then add the spices. i also add a red pepper for a little extra flavor and color.