Friday, April 29, 2011

What We Ate for Dinner: Baked Penne with Chicken and Spinach

This was one of the last of my freezer meals.  I have been debating about whether to post a recipe, the problem being that I can't remember how I made it.  I have the recipe I used, but that doesn't help me much because I modified the recipe.  I will give you the recipe as I have it and then talk a little about what I probably did to give you an idea how to modify a recipe for what you have on hand.

1 lb. penne or rigatoni
6 T. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1/3 c. flour
2 1/2 c. whole milk
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground white pepper
1/2 t. grated nutmeg
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. finely diced Provolone cheese
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1" dice, sauteed until golden brown.
9 oz. bag of fresh baby spinach
1/4 c. chopped Italian parsley

2 c. freshly ground breadcrumbs
2 T. melted butter
1 t. dried Italian seasoning

Cook the pasta until al dente.  This is especially important if you are going to freeze this after you make it because the pasta will absorb moisture from the sauce when it bakes.  Pasta that is well done will be mushy.

Saute garlic and shallots in butter until soft.  Add flour and cook for a minute to incorporate.  Whisk in milk until thickened on medium heat.  Stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg, cheese, chicken and spinach.  Pour over pasta in large bowl and toss with parsley.  Pour everything in baking dish and top with breadcrumbs mixed with butter and seasonings.  Bake covered in foil at 375 for 20 or 30 if refrigerated.  If frozen, bake until 160 internal temperature.  Remove foil and bake 10 minutes more.

Here is what I probably did.  I would have used regular onion in place of the shallots.  In place of the whole milk, I would have used a can of evaporated plus powdered milk to equal the 2 1/2 cups.  Evaporated milk is a pretty good replacement for cream in soup and sauce recipes.  I would have used regular black pepper in place of the white and mozzarella in place of the provolone.  I also used frozen spinach, defrosted in place of the fresh.  And dried parsley.

I modify a lot of recipes like this.  You shouldn't be afraid of using equivalents when cooking.  But don't forget when you are using dried herbs to only use half as much as the recipe calls for.  Dried herbs are more potent than fresh.


  1. Yum, Yum. Did you use the dehydrated Shallots I gave you in the recipe? It's nice to think they're getting used.

  2. Actually, the dehydrated shallots I have been using in the homemade rice-a-roni. But they would have been good in this recipe.



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