Hello to my favorite foodie gang! I thought Springtime had come to my little corner of Washington but it was just a tease. One day of sunshine and 60+ weather, now we are back to drizzle. Even my tulips are confused by this crazy weather. I really want to get my new batch of herbs planted and get my garden set up, but I don't want to get soaking wet to do it!
Anyway. let me get to today's recipe. We are on #153 Southwestern Pasta Bake. To be honest, this was one of those recipes that I read and thought it sounded OK but I wasn't in a huge hurry to make it. For some reason I just wasn't putting all of the ingredients together in my head and come up with YUM. Also, I had it on my shopping list and had picked up all of the groceries but I was having a hard time finding a night to cook when someone besides Kevin and I would be eating. I am sure that you all trust our opinions, but I like to have more to offer.
Finally I gave up and made it for dinner. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted. Kevin and I really liked it. Of course I feel the heat could have been kicked up a notch. I even kept the ribs and seeds with the jalapeño, but next time I would go for two peppers at least. Of course for those of you that like it on the milder side, if you remove the ribs and seeds of the pepper you will be just fine.
I also had more like 2 pounds of chicken vs the 26 ounces called for because I had chicken breasts in the freezer already so I used 4 of those and they were bigger breasts. I liked how meaty it made the dish though.
After Kevin and I had our fill we put the leftovers in a Rubbermaid container and popped it into the freezer for a night when I didn't feel like cooking, not that I have many of those, but just to have it. The next night Seth and Melissa came over unexpectedly and I didn't have anything planned. Kevin and I looked at each other and both had the same idea, we needed their input on the recipe, so we pulled it out, warmed it up and had it for dinner a second night. Actually, I think it was even better the second time. Maybe because the flavors had time to really get happy together? I am not sure, but the kids both really liked it.
So this dish went from one that really didn't grab me, to one that is a winner in my book.
Sorry, I forgot to take a picture. Bad Bobbi!
Southwestern Pasta Bake
1 pound penne rigate or cavatappi (corkscrew) pasta
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (twice around the pan)
4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 tablespoon ground cumin (1 palmful)
1 tablespoon ground coriander (1 palmful)
2 tablespoons chili powder (2 palmfuls)
Coarse black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
3/4 pound sharp yellow cheddar cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/4 fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (a generous handful)
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped (a couple of handfuls)
Preheat the broiler to high and position the rack 8 inches from the heat.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the boiling water and cook the pasta until slightly undercooked-a little chewy at the center.
While the water is coming to a boil, preheat a large skillet over medium high heat with vegetable oil. Season the chicken with cumin, coriander, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Add the seasoned chicken to the hot skillet and cook until light brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, and jalapeño 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, whisk in the milk. When the milk comes to a bubble, stir in the cheese, cilantro, and parsley with a wooden spoon. 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 to the large pot, add the contents of the chicken skillet and all of the cheddar sauce, and stir to combine. Transfer to a baking dish and place under the broiler to lightly brown.
*When I reheated the pasta bake the next night, I warmed the container in a hot water bath. Once it was fairly thawed out I transfered it to the casserole dish and topped it with panko bread crumbs. Then cooked it in a 350 over for 40 minutes.