Chicken Parm with Toasted Penne

The Mr. got me a subscription to "Cooking Light" magazine, which makes me very happy, especially because I have made the decision to join Weight Watchers, so the added recipe ideas are much appreciated. In the newest edition, the January/February 2014 edition, I was intrigued by the Cooking Class Lesson of the month... a cream-free creamy pasta dish. Say what?

The whole science behind it blows my mind, but essentially you're cooking the pasta like it's a risotto. Using this method, you stir in a little liquid at a time and let it absorb before adding more liquid. This allows the starch from the pasta to be released into the liquid, which ultimately creates a creamy sauce without using any cream or milk {don't worry, it does call for a little Parmesan cheese for good measure} It is also strongly suggested that you toast the pasta first... I know, I'm sorry- mind blowing yet again. It sounds weird, but it actually changes and elevates the flavor of the pasta pretty significantly. And when you're using whole wheat pasta like I did, I think it works even better. 

The original recipe made the pasta as a main dish and included chicken sausage {Yum?!} but I made it as a side dish to serve along with a cheat version of chicken parm and peas. I fully intend to try the sausage version when I'm out of my 2 weeks of Simple Start. Going forward, I intend to do my best to include all PointsPlus+ values per my WW recipe builder, but please check all nutrition for yourself.

ingredients

For the chicken parm...
3 chicken breasts, halved
1 cup tomato basil pasta sauce
1/2 cup fat free shredded mozzarella cheese

For the pasta...
6 cups fat free, reduced sodium chicken stock 
2 Tbl olive oil, divided
8 ounces uncooked penne pasta {I used whole wheat, but regular pasta can be used}
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 package mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 Tbl lemon juice
2-3 Tbl Parmesan cheese
Salt + Pepper to taste

instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees - spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and place chicken breast halves into dish. Cover with sauce and place in oven with 30 minutes on the timer. {when there is appx 10 minutes left, sprinkle cheese over tops}
  2. Meanwhile bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a saucepan - do not boil. Keep warm over low heat.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 Tbl oil to the pan. Add pasta and cook approximately 5 minutes, until toasted and starts to brown. Make sure to stir frequently as to not burn pasta. Remove pasta from pan.
  4. Add remaining oil and cook onion, garlic and mushrooms until softened. Remove mixture from the pan.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add pasta back in. Add chicken stock 1 cup at a time, stirring almost constantly, until each portion of the stock is nearly absorbed before adding the next cup. This will take about 30 minutes in total, and you may not need the full 6 cups of stock. 
  6. Once the liquid is no longer being absorbed and the sauce begins to cling to the pasta, stir back in the vegetables, a squirt of lemon juice, and the cheese. 

notes

  • Weight Watchers PointsPlus+ Values: Chicken Parm makes 6 servings, at 4 PPV per serving; Toasted Penne makes 4 servings, at 5 PPV; I served this dish with peas, which add 1 PPV per 1/2 cup serving
  • This would be a great main dish, the original recipe calls for chicken sausage
  • If you make this, please take pictures and post them for me, since yet again I have failed to do so. :o) #bloggerfail


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