Need dinner stat! Chicken Broccoli Ziti

Spent the day poolside – imagine relaxing by the pool, drink in hand, reading the latest issue of gourmet….that’s not what my day was like. Taking four kids to any sort of water activity should qualify as an Olympic event. Add to that, my five year old informing me my belly looks extra puffy in my bathing suit and it was just a stellar experience. So thankful for my older niece and nephew and nanny and papa helping. Yes, it takes five people to wrangle my four children at one pool, and every one over the age of seven is now exhausted from the experience.  Regardless of all of that, dinner still needs to get on the table. So, I turn to chicken broccoli ziti (actually penne today), this is always a favorite. This is a go to meal for pot lucks, or bringing meals to new parents. It takes about a half hour to throw together and tastes terrific.

I like to use Parmesan that I grind myself in this recipe. It has way more flavor than what you get packaged and you need a lot less of it. If you really splurge and get the really good Parmesan it will taste AMAZING, but I’m cheap and got the just good enough Parmesan.

I also like this meal because it requires a little white wine which is the perfect excuse to pour myself a glass after a long day. Of course that wine will still be sitting by the stove until after the kids are in bed, but those two sips will be glorious.

Anyway, back to the food. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Next, cube some boneless skinless chicken, then season it with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper.  Brown the chicken in a large pot with a little butter in it.  While the chicken is cooking I mince up some garlic.DSC_0014 (1).JPG

Once the chicken is cooked through and removed to a plate I lower the heat and add just a bit more butter and the minced garlic cooking the garlic for a minute or so.  Next I add a little flour for a quick roux.  Then comes the wine, you can skip this but it really adds a great flavor. Your sauce should be looking like a nice wallpaper paste at this point, but it will look better soon.  DSC_0025 (1)

Ok, so we’ve been looking at our blue pot with sauce, but don’t forget we have that pot of water that is boiling away nicely now.  I add some salt to that water and then add some broccoli florets (I cut these up while the chicken was browning as well)  I like to cut up my florets and save the stocks of the broccoli in the freezer.  I am storing them up till I have enough for broccoli cheddar soup.  You can also buy the bag of pre-cut broccoli in the produce section to save time. I leave the broccoli in the boiling water for two minutes then pull it out with a sieve and put in in a bowl to the side.  Keep the pot of water on the stove with the burner still on.DSC_0023 (1)

Now, back to the blue pot with the sauce, the wine has cooked down and I add some heavy cream – you don’t have to, but it really adds a great flavor and smoothness to your dish. I don’t always have some on hand and I guess we can all admit that it might not be the best thing for you.  When I make this for a party I add more heavy cream than milk, but for a normal night at home I normally just use milk (unless I happened to make caramel the night before and just happen to have a little heavy cream on hand). After the cream I add twice the amount of milk.  Then I add a few pinches of salt and a couple grinds of fresh black pepper.  Time for the chicken to go back into the pot along with any drippings, and set the flame to low.DSC_0027 (1)

Back to our pot of water.  Yes, I know, it is green. This probably isn’t true, but I feel like I am adding extra nutrients into my pasta when I use the broccoli water to boil it. In any case it saves washing an extra pot.  Add your pasta to your water and cook however your pasta box instructs you to.    I then just use the same sieve I used to scoop my broccoli to scoop my pasta right into my sauce.  Once it’s in there, I then top it with a cup of my ground Parmesan.  I mix that in and then taste and usually decide it needs another half cup of Parmesan, so that gets added in along with the broccoli O had set aside, and dinner is done. It was a busy half hour but we accomplished our goal, now where did that wine end up?


 

Chicken Broccoli Penne

Ingredients

  • 2 Lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, Cubed
  • ¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Pepper
  • 6 Tbsp Butter
  • 6 Tbsp Flour
  • 4 Cloves Garlic minced
  • ½ Cup White Wine
  • 1 Cup Cream
  • 2 Cups Milk
  • 1 Lb Broccoli cut into Florets
  • 1 Lb Penne Pasta
  • 1 ½ – 2 Cups of Parmesan Cheese

Bring one large pot of water to a boil.  Meanwhile season your chicken with the Salt, Pepper, and Cayenne Pepper.  Brown the cubed chicken in 2 Tablespoons of the butter over a medium high heat.  Remove cooked chicken to a plate, lower heat to medium low and add the remainder of the butter and garlic to the pot.  Cook for one minute then whisk in the flour.  Cook while whisking for two minutes on a medium heat.  Whisk in the white wine and cook for two more minutes.  Whisk in the Cream and Milk until blended.  Add chicken back in and set heat back to low.

Salt your boiling water and add Broccoli.  Cook for two minutes and remove from boiling water to a bowl.  Add pasta to pot and cook according to the directions on the box.

Scoop Pasta from boiling water using a sieve or slotted spoon and add to cream mixture.  Add 1 Cup of Parmesan cheese and stir.  Taste and add more Parmesan if desired, then add the Broccoli.  Salt and Pepper to taste.

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