Healthy Chicken Pasta Bake
Even better than making a chicken and pasta dish with a smooth creamy sauce, is making it without a single drop of cream!!
While not quite a one-pot production, you won’t regret using that extra saucepan to put this dish together. To create that creamy, silky sauce, l mix through and pour over the top of my Chicken Pasta dish pureed white cauliflower deliciousness. Combined with butter and a handful of parmesan cheese, the pureed cauliflower brings together the chicken and pasta for a super satisfying, healthy, complete meal.
To cut down on the preparation time, l usually have the pasta and cauliflower cooking away in separate saucepans simultaneously, while the onions and chicken are sautéing in a frypan. That may sound like a lot of washing up, but you are only using the saucepans for boiling. No scrubbing of pots required, just a quick rinse and wipe! You can use just one saucepan for everything (except baking), but it will increase the preparation time. Don’t forget that this is an all-in-one meal. You have your protein, carbohydrates and vegetable. No need to prepare anything else, unless you really want to!
Preparation Time: 40 minutes Cooking Time: 20 minutes Serves: 4 – 5
- 3 skinless chicken thigh fillets (Note 1)
- 200 g (7 oz) penne pasta
- 500 g (17 oz) cauliflower (Note 2)
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 40 g butter
- 1 – 1 1/4 cups warm milk
- 2 big handfuls of grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp parsley, chopped (optional)
- salt and pepper (Note 3)
- Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Steps 1 – 5 can be done simultaneously.
- Bring a medium saucepan with salted water to a full rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until just tender (roughly 8 – 10 minutes). Strain and tip into a baking dish. (Note 4)
- Place the cauliflower in a small – medium pot. Fill it half way with cold water. Place the lid on and cook over medium – high heat until the cauliflower is soft (roughly 8 – 10 minutes). Strain and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium frypan over low – moderate heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft and transparent.
- Push the chopped onion to the edge of the saucepan and add the sliced chicken thighs. Sauté over moderate – high heat until you can no longer see any raw bits. Tip into baking dish containing the cooked pasta. Gently mix.
- Place the cooked cauliflower into a blender. Add the butter, milk, cheese. Blend until smooth and silky. Add 1/2 salt and pepper. Blitz again and check the seasoning.
- Pour 1 cup of pureed cauliflower over the chicken and pasta mixture. Add the chopped parsley. Mix together.
- Pour the remainder of the sauce over the mixture. Sprinkle with another big handful of parmesan cheese.
- Place on the top rack of your oven and bake for 20 minutes or until a golden crust forms on the surface.
- Serve while still fairly hot.
- Slice the fillets as shown in the photograph; roughly 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick. Then chop them into smaller pieces. I like mine to be a bit on the chunky side; that’s just my preference.
- When you remove the stem of the cauliflower, it will naturally fall apart into large florets (flowering stems). Break these down into smaller florets with you hands or a knife. Essentially, you want them small enough to fit comfortably in a small pot as well as a blender.
- Make sure you season well to bring out the full flavour of the ingredients. You may decide that you need a little more salt and/or pepper.
- Salt the water you boil the pasta and cauliflower in; this will give them a flavour boost. I use 2 – 3 tsp or enough for the water to taste quite salty.
Once you have tasted this dish, l know you won’t mind having had an extra pot or two to wash up. It’s definitely worth it!!