Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Pasta with Chicken, Cauliflower and Cheese

This was my attempt to turn the comfort dish of cauliflower and cheese sauce into something lighter. I also didn't really want to have the oven on in this heat!

I used up my last 2 chicken breasts, red pepper, Parmesan rinds and of course, the cauliflower. It turned out as I had imagined, and we all enjoyed it, plus there was some left for lunch today.

First, put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil for the pasta. The sauce can be made while you wait for the pasta to cook.

Cut the cauliflower into little florets and set aside. You will be cooking it with the pasta.

I used about 3 cups of cauliflower.

Thinly slice 1/2 medium onion, and cook in a bit of olive oil until it starts to soften.

Season lightly with salt and pepper.


2 chicken breasts

Add to the onion, and season with salt and pepper.

Cook for a few minutes, stirring to allow the chicken to start browning on all sides.

When the chicken is half cooked, add:

1 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced

When the chicken is cooked, add:

1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup whipping cream
Parmesan rinds

Cook at a low boil, until the sauce starts to thicken slightly.

At this point, you can turn the sauce off if the pasta is not ready.

When the pasta is about 3/4 done, add the cauliflower to the pot and continue to cook until both are tender and ready to eat.

Drain, and place back into the pot.

Measure out:

3/4 cup baby bocconcini, cut in half
2 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded

Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning; reheat if you had it turned off.

Add the sauce to the pasta and cauliflower, along with the bocconcini and basil, and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan.

                            Serve, garnished with bits of blue cheese...I used cambozola.

  • Even with the addition of whipping cream and cheese, this dish was still a lot lighter than cauliflower smothered in a heavy cheese sauce.
  • The flavours of the red pepper and basil were bright and fresh, and the peppers retained some of the crunch.
  • Thinly sliced leeks would be a nice substitution for the onions, they add a unique flavour to any dish.
  • This could be made without the chicken; add extra vegetables...think colour and texture. Good choices would be broccoli, corn or green peas, diced zucchini or eggplant, asparagus.
  • The bocconcini can be marinated in chopped fresh basil, chili flakes and balsamic vinegar before adding it to the cooked pasta. If you choose to do this, omit the whipping cream.
  • Leftover cooked chicken can be used. Other meat such as pork tenderloin, bacon or seafood such as scallops or crab meat can be used.
  • Use less chicken, and add diced prosciutto, ham, bacon or pancetta while cooking the onions. This will add a smokiness to the dish. Be careful of the added saltiness of these meats.
  • This dish is a great way to use up leftover cauliflower from a previous meal, especially if it was roasted with herbs and/or spices.
  • The blue cheese can be mixed into the pasta; it will melt and add a sharp taste and creamy texture to the sauce. I chose to sprinkle it on top so we had the odd hit of blue cheese.
  • Other herbs that could be used instead of basil are thyme, chives, parsley or rosemary. Spice it up by adding a pinch of chili flakes.
  • The Parmesan rinds soften up during cooking, and add a cheesy flavour to the sauce. They also add some saltiness, so use less salt than you think you need in the beginning and adjust it at the end.

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