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Creamy chicken pasta with veggies — the best grown-up mac and cheese. Shell pasta or other short pasta shapes are combined in a creamy lemon garlic sauce with cooked chicken, fresh basil and roasted zucchini.
This lemony, creamy chicken pasta is a main dish that can be ready in 30 minutes. It tastes rich, savory and wholesome, all at the same time.
I call this (one of many pasta dinner ideas), a “grown-up” macaroni and cheese because I snuck in green vegetables along with chicken. Wink, wink.
If you decide to make this a totally vegetarian meal, just omit the chicken.
To borrow Julia Child’s words, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream”. I love butter, but this easy creamy pasta sauce doesn’t have any — just straight-up heavy cream and soft goat cheese, brightened with fresh lemon zest and juice.
- Cream: While traditional alfredo-style white sauces often start out with a base of butter, milk and flour, they often seem heavy and gloppy to eat. For this sauce, you’ll simmer heavy cream for a few minutes, just until it’s slightly reduced and thickened.
- Cheese: Soft goat cheese melts into the heavy cream, adding tanginess and a smooth texture. If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, substitute with an equal amount of ricotta. Grated Parmesan brings the dish together, as always.
- Chicken: Use leftover roasted chicken or rotisserie chicken.
- Pasta: I recommend using a dried short pasta shape that’s cupped or tube-shaped to capture the creamy sauce. Cavatelli (shaped like tiny spiraled shells), bow-tie pasta, farfalle shell pasta or any shape you enjoy.
- Vegetables: Zucchini or broccoli florets pair well with the lemony, creamy sauce.
- Lemon: Fresh zest and juice balance out the creamy sauce.
Creamy Chicken Pasta with Lemon
- 2 cups (350 g) chopped zucchini or broccoli florets
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1½ cups (375 ml) heavy cream
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- Freshly grated zest from 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 ounces soft goat cheese
- ½ cup (50 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 ½ cups cooked chicken breast, chopped or shredded
- 12 ounces (350 g) dried short pasta, such as cavatelli, shells or rigatoni
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, or fresh basil
- Heat the oven to 400 (200 C) degrees.
- Toss the zucchini or broccoli on a rimmed baking sheet with the olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and red pepper. Roast 20 minutes, or until the zucchini is golden brown on the edges.
- Bring 4 or 5 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
- Put the cream, shallot, garlic and lemon zest in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat (watch that it doesn't boil over), then reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir the lemon juice, goat cheese, and Parmesan.
- Drain the pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the chicken, cream mixture and roasted vegetables and mix together. Scatter the herbs over the pasta and serve hot.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Omit the chicken for a vegetarian dish.
- If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, substitute with an equal amount of ricotta.
- To make a crusty-edged baked pasta, transfer the pasta and sauce to a baking dish. Bake in 400 degree oven 15 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and the edges turn golden.