This month, the Daring Cooks challenged us to think inside the box - the icebox, that is! Audax taught us some really cool tips and tricks for stocking our freezers with prepare-ahead meals that can keep our taste buds satisfied even during the busiest of times.
Apart from the Mac and Cheese, I've never done a baked pasta dish with white sauce. I thought this will be a good test if white sauces freeze well. And it really does. Thanks is in order to Martha Stewart's website for the recipe that I adapted. It just needed a little tweaking in salt and pepper department plus extra cheese to prevent the sauce getting too bland. This recipe also confirmed my dislike for chicken breast. Believe me, it didn't do anything to the dish in terms of flavour. It was just there as a cardboard-like protein but virtually no chicken flavour. I even bought a free-range one but it was just ... meh! So next time either I add in non-breast chicken meat or maybe put in some chicken powder in the sauce. This recipe is definitely still in the tweaking stage so don't be surprised if there are changes later. However, I do love the garlic in the sauce that really lifted it up from the ordinary.
Baked Pasta with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes
500 g penne rigate or rigatoni
6 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup plain flour
6 cups whole milk
2 tsp coarse sea salt
450 g boneless chicken meat - cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp olive oil
300 g white mushrooms - trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes - drained and thinly sliced
2 cups grated provolone or matured cheddar
125 g [about 1 cup] finely grated parmesan
some salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cook the pasta 3 minutes short of package instructions. So if it says cook for 12 minutes then cook for just 9 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Grease ovenproof pasta dishes and set aside.
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour in olive oil, heat for a minute then add the chicken. Season with some salt and pepper and cook until opaque throughout, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
- In a 5-liter heavy pot, melt butter over medium heat.
- Add garlic, cook for about 1 minute or until aromatic.
- Add flour, whisk for 1 minute.
- Gradually add 2 cups of milk while whisking all the time. Bring to a simmer. Repeat this until all milk is used.
- Add 1 tsp of the sea salt. Simmer for another 2 minutes.
- Add the mushroom and sun-dried tomatoes; cook for 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and gradually stir in the provolone (or cheddar) and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese.
- Taste the sauce. If need be, add the remaining 1 tsp sea salt and some ground black pepper.
- Add the chicken and pasta to the sauce. Divide among the prepared dishes and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese on top.
- Bake uncovered in a preheated 200°C/fan 180°C/400°F oven for about 25 minutes.
- To freeze: do up to step no. 12. Cover tightly with cling wrap and/or foil and freeze up to 3 months.
- To bake from frozen: Preheat oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/400°F and bake covered in foil on a baking sheet until centre is hot, around 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil and bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
Defrost completely and follow baking instructions in step no. 13 above.