Friday, May 25, 2012

Cheesy Chicken,Bacon & Cauliflower Pasta

Do you ever look in your fridge and think," What can I make with all of this food?" I did just that more than once this week.I scanned my fridge and then I found this amazing recipe for roasted cauliflower with Parmesan and pancetta and I was hooked. Then I thought, how can I make this into an amazing main dish? Well that was easy. Combine chicken,bacon.cauliflower, pasta and a boat load of cheese and you have yourself one heck of a pasta dish.

There are a few components to this dish and if multi-tasking isn't your thing you can do alot of the steps ahead of time. I made this for dinner when my friend Kait was coming over and I only had an hour to get everything bubbly and brown so I kept thinking of what I could do ahead of time. To cut cooking time the day of , you can:

1.Cut, wash, and boil cauliflower
2. Bake or saute chicken and chop into cubes
3. Cook bacon or pancetta and chop

That's pretty easy. All you have to do the day of is par-boil the pasta and make the cream sauce. To make this dish the ultimate comfort food, but trying to conserve calories, I used 1% milk to make the cream sauce and whole wheat rigatoni.Depending on the pasta or extra bites of goodness you put in this you may need more or less sauce. If it looks like it won't be enough make more or add less before you bake. You can use low fat cheese for the topping if you would like. I used a fresh ball of mozzarella.Baking of course is not necessary. t is nice with the breadcrumb topping and makes it bubbly and brown, but you can easily eat it without baking ( just cook pasta all the way and cauliflower.)

 Cheesy Chicken,Bacon & Cauliflower Pasta





  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into pieces (about 6 cups) 
  • 1 box of your choice of pasta ( I used whole wheat rigatoni)
  • Two pieces of chicken cooked( about 1/2 lb) or rotisserie chicken
  • 4 ounce piece pancetta, diced or 3 slices of bacon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 clove garlic, whole
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup cheese for topping 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Blanch the cauliflower for 2 minutes. Fish out with a slotted spoon and transfer the cauliflower to a buttered 9 by 13-inch baking dish and let cool, about 5 minutes.
Pour pasta into the same pot and cook 5-6 minutes ( while there is still a bite to it.)Then drain and add to baking dish.

While pasta is boiling bake chicken in oven for 20 minutes until juices run clear or use precooked chicken.  

In a small skillet over medium-high heat, brown the pancetta. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir until combined. Continue stirring for 2 minutes to cook the flour. Slowly add the milk, stirring continuously until the milk has incorporated and there are no lumps. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir the sauce over low heat until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Add the Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and the reserved pancetta. Stir to combine.

Pour the sauce over the cauliflower,pasta and chicken to cover. Top with a sprinkling of bread crumbs and cheese.

Bake until the breadcrumbs are golden and the cauliflower is cooked, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.