I often refer to quick and easy meals like this bacon-and-cheese chicken macaroni as kind of the perfect recipe for busy weekend days when the kids are at school and we’re all running in a hundred different directions.
However, the thing is that it’s not just when school is in session that we’re looking for easy recipes – at least in our house. We’re pretty much always looking for things that we can have on the table without a lot of fuss and with ingredients we already have in the house. You’d think that’s not the case as a recipe developer. But I think it’s one of those “cobbler’s kids don’t have shoes” things. When I’m in the kitchen all day, I rarely want to spend so much time cooking dinner.
And this summer is a little different for us because Jack is home all summer. In the past, he’s been at some sort of summer camp – usually swimming, hiking, or kayaking. But this summer, with our experimental kitchen and office now completely in the backyard, we let him stay home with us.
Now, I don’t know when was the last time you tried to feed a 13-year-old boy, but let me tell you… the phrase “we ate out and about” is 100% correct. This kid is a predator.
When we were testing this recipe, we had barely started cooking the bacon when he opened his head in the door to see what was cooking. And who does he blame? People come quickly when they smell bacon. And that’s exactly what will happen when you make this dish.
We start with thick smoked bacon. It gives the sauce a noticeable smoke and great flavour. Regular bacon chops will also work. You may only need a few more pieces to get enough fat to cook everything else. You will need 2 to 3 tablespoons of bacon fat/fat.
Using the fat to grill the chicken also helps us carry that flavor throughout the dish. Just make sure not to crowd that pan. You want to sear the chicken well and get it golden brown to add more flavour.
It is important to remember to cook the pasta only until it is soft to the touch (soft but firm and chewy). It will continue to cook a bit once it comes out of the boiling water and can soften more once you add it to the sauce. And be sure not to rinse the pasta in this recipe. Keeping the starch on the pasta helps the sauce stick to the spaghetti.
And while I know how some of you hate the vagueness of the phrase “add salt and pepper to taste,” it’s really the only way to do it. The amounts of salt vary in different types of cheese, and depending on how much salt and pepper you put on the chicken, you may not need more at all. Just taste it.
Creamy chicken, bacon and cheese pasta
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
- 1 package of spaghetti (16 ounces)
- 5 slices of thick bacon
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ cups chicken broth
- 1 cup milk
- 1 (8 ounces) package cream cheese, cut into cubes
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta until soft, according to package directions, and set aside.
- In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels, and keep the bacon flakes in the skillet. Shrink and set aside.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper and stir in bacon fat over medium heat. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Work in batches if necessary to prevent crowding of the pan.
- Remove chicken from pan using tongs or a perforated spoon to allow bacon fat to remain in the pan. Put the chicken on a plate. Sit aside.
- Reduce the heat and add the chopped garlic. Cook in the bacon fat until fragrant – about 1 minute – being careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add chicken broth and milk. Stir until smooth.
- Add cream cheese and cover the pan. Cook for a few minutes or until the cream cheese is almost melted.
- Use a whisk to mix the sauce.
- Add the Parmesan cheese to the skillet and whisk together.
- Simmer, uncovered, over low heat until sauce thickens.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Return the chicken and the crumbled bacon to the skillet along with the pasta, and toss together. Feet it right away.
This recipe originally appeared on SouthernBite.com. For more great recipes, visit the website or check out our Southern Cookbook.