So I began pondering the thought of how to adjust foods that we normally eat but that are very tomatoey, or contain a hefty whack of chilli for instance, but exchange something else for those troublesome ingredients. Something that will deliver a good flavour in exchange for the tummy-troubling effect.
Amazingly - I think probably because I've a talent for comfort food - I've been fairly successful in most of these "calmer" dishes and this one proved to be particularly good.
|Cooking the chicken through|
I don't recommend that you use the soup alone for your sauce - although it would do at a pinch - but if you work on adding complimentary flavours, you can create a multi-layered flavour profile resulting in a really quite interesting sauce which will keep your taste buds interested through to the last bite.
|Mmmmn ... had to stop myself from "tasting" too often!|
Again, it was one of those "put things into the pan in order, boil some pasta, combine the two and eat" dinners that are always so welcome. Plus, with the extra little bit of breathing space that you get when it goes into the oven, you've got time to beat back the washing up or put together a little side salad, if the idea moves you.
As for Cook's Tips, well I've a few :
It really isn't necessary to use goat milk for the sauce, cow's will do the job perfectly well - and if you're using a semi-skimmed of whole milk, then there is no need to add the Philadelphia as that was really just there to provide the creaminess lacking in a skimmed milk. Likewise, if you're using skimmed milk but don't have any Philadelphia but do have some cream - use that!
Do try to find - and use - low salt chicken stock granules or cubes. It makes all the difference if YOU can say how much salt you want in the mix, rather than some manufacturer deciding for you.
Also, it isn't essential to use the mozzarella ball. It just provides some "stringy cheese" which my son always enjoys and adds a nice creamy flavour to the cheesy layer on top of the bake. However, if you're strapped for cash or can't find any - don't worry about not including it, nobody will notice.
It's a great mid week dinner, this one. It can be dressed up for more than four by the addition of a side salad and garlic bread, or just eaten as is. Very flexible where ingredients are concerned and forgiving to cook, it's a very civilised little recipe. The evenings are beginning to draw in and the temperatures have dropped, so I think it's time for a little bit of comfort food. What say you?
CHICKEN PENNE PASTA BAKE (serves 4)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 stick celery, de-strung and chopped finely
1 green pepper, cored and diced
10g salted butter
half a tsp ground black pepper
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
1 tsp dried tarragon
295g can of Batchelor's condensed cream of chicken soup
250ml skimmed milk (I used goat milk)
1 tbsp Philadelphia cream cheese
1.5 tsp Knorr reduced salt chicken granules (stock powder)
2 tbsp frozen petits pois
300g penne pasta
125g mozzarella ball, sliced
150g mature cheddar cheese.
Two thirds fill a large saucepan with water and put on to boil over a high heat.
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan over a high heat and add the onion, garlic, celery and pepper. Make sure to stir the contents regularly so as not to allow them to brown, but cook until the onion is transparent and the celery & pepper have softened.
Add the black pepper and stir through.
Add the sliced chicken and continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the chicken has all turned from pink to white.
Reduce the heat to moderate and add the dried tarragon and stir through.
Once the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente. You don't want it to be cooked all the way through, as it will finish cooking in the oven.
Add the soup, milk, cream cheese and stock powder and gently stir until all is amalgamated. Allow the combination to come to a gentle simmer. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary, but remember that there will be cheese on top - so go easy on the salt! Add the frozen petit pois and stir to combine.
When the pasta is done, drain and make sure to retain a little of the pasta water, just in case you need to reduce the thickness of the sauce a little.
Replace the pasta back into the hot saucepan and add the sauce contents.
Stir through gently.
Decant into an ovenproof dish and lay the mozzarella slices over the top.
Cover with the grated cheddar and put into a pre-heated oven at 180degC/350degF/Gas4 for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted, bubbly and just beginning to turn golden.