A friend of mine had injured her finger some weeks ago and wasn’t able to prepare any food for her family without suffering pain, so a group of friends offered to help her out for a few days. With the kids at school, she had a chance to relax a bit, but needed help with dinner, so I offered to help her out for two meals.
With no kids of my own, I was truly unsure what to make. I have heard that children have quite a few dislikes and can be quite finicky at times, so I really wanted to prepare something that the whole family would enjoy. From past experience, with other friends that have kids, macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets always seem to be a hit, so a chicken bake should do the trick.
|Photography by Heaven on Hearth|
Not wanting to the kids to be turned off by too many spices, but also having the parents enjoy a nice meal, I came up with my plan: chicken thighs, pasta, creamy sauce and cheese. Children must love it! So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.
I used a six cheese Italian blend that has Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Romano Cheeses. It wasn’t too harsh in flavor that the kids wouldn’t enjoy it.
You will need:
6 cups of elbow pasta cooked
4 boneless chicken thighs (about 22 ounces) sliced in thin strips
½ of a medium sweet onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 ounces mushrooms chopped (Cremini and White button)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup cheese Six Cheese Italian Blend)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
8 ounces heavy cream
1½ cups chicken broth
1 handful of parsley finely chopped
1/3 cup of cheese for the topping
Begin with cooking the pasta as the directions suggest, as you will be requiring 6 cups of cooked pasta. By the time the pasta is cooked, the chicken and cream sauce will be ready. It’s so much easier when all ingredients are nice and hot so the baking time at the end will not be too long.
Prepare your ingredients before hand. So start by slicing 4 boneless chicken thighs into thin strips, then, finely dice ½ of a medium sweet onion. Finely chop 1 clove of garlic and roughly chop a mix of 4 ounces Cremini and white button mushrooms.
|Chicken Strips, Onions, Garlic and Mushrooms|
Heat a large skillet at medium high heat. Once the skillet is nice and hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss in the chicken strips evenly in the skillet. Let it brown for 3 minutes on one side, then toss again after 2 minutes. Add the finely diced onions and the chopped garlic and let soften for 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Toss the chopped mushrooms in the skillet, then season the chicken mixture with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and toss occasionally for another 3 minutes before transferring the mixture into a bowl.
Using the same skillet, over medium high heat, melt 5 tablespoons butter. Once the butter is melted and slightly bubbling, add 4 tablespoons flour and using a whisk, stir the butter and flour mixture so that it doesn’t burn for 1½ minutes. Turn the burner down to medium low, then add 8 ounces heavy cream and 1½ cups chicken broth and simmer on medium low heat till bubbling for about 4 minutes. Add chicken mixture and pasta to the cream sauce and toss well, ensuring that the pasta is well incorporated in the sauce. Turn the heat off.
|Chicken and Pasta Mixture with Parsley|
Take a handful of parsley and finely chop. Add to the chicken and pasta mixture as well as ½ cup six cheese Italian blend. Toss the mixture well, again.
|Chicken and Pasta Mixture with six cheese Italian Blend|
I used 4 individual ramekins. Fill each with 2 cups of the mixture. Or if you wish, you can use two large ramekins and 4 smaller ones if you have little children. Top the ramekins evenly with 1/3 cup of six cheese Italian blend.
|Ramekin filled with Creamy Cheesy Chicken Pasta|
Since the mixture is still hot, turn the oven on to broil, on high. Place the ramekins on the top rack and broil until the cheese is golden brown. This will vary with each oven, but it shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes if as much.
|Ready to be Enjoyed!|
This serves 4. Voilà. The whole family enjoyed this and I was told that the kids didn’t even mind the parsley, so I was quite happy.