I *think* Ian is getting better with this whole dairy thing. It’s always hard to tell – did he have a fussy night because he is going through a terrible Wonder Week? Because he’s sick? Or because that bowl of French onion soup really did him in? Although I can’t be sure, I’m pretty confident things are getting to the point where I can at least enjoy some cheese. And thank goodness,because, man, have I missed cheese.
This is one of those recipes I used to ease into cheese, if you will. There’s only 3 oz. of cream cheese (and some Parmesan) over about 6 servings. The nice thing about this recipe using cream cheese is that it’s in place of the cream of ___ soups that are so prevalent in tetrazzini recipes. So, you still get that creamy sauce without any random ingredients. Plus, this is a lightened up version of the classic, but still tastes great.
Although there are a few different components of this recipe, it still comes together pretty quickly and is easy to prep. The bake time is not high, so you can have a meal on the table in about an hour (it doesn’t really take that long to prep/bake but there is some inactive time with the chicken marinating). I was skeptical about a mere 5 oz. of pasta and 12 oz. of chicken being enough for 6 servings, but this is quite filling, so that’s pretty accurate. We had it for two meals, but one of us is a toddler with smaller portions (although, not by much these days).
Barely adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Comfort Food Makeovers
3/4 lb. boneless/skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4″ pieces
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
5 oz. spaghetti, broken in half (I used whole wheat)
1 Tbsp. butter
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp. sherry
3 oz. lowfat cream cheese, softened
1 oz. (1/2 cup) Parmesan cheese, grated, divided
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup toasted panko*
Combine chicken and soy sauce in bowl; cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. Heat the oven to 400 and place a rack in the upper-middle position.
Bring 2 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta, a pinch of salt and cook until just al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain the pasta.
Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Whisk in broth, sherry and reserved pasta water, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to a simmer.
Whisk in the cream cheese and 2/3 of the Parmesan; simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in drained marinated chicken and peas and simmer gently for 1 minute (chicken will not be fully cooked). Add mixture to cooked pasta and toss to combine.
Transfer mixture to a 2 qt. baking dish. Toss the toasted panko with remaining Parmesan, season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle over top. Bake until hot throughout and chicken is cooked through, 14-16 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
*To toast panko, place it in a large skillet over medium-high heat and stir often until well-browned, about 5 minutes.