This pasta may break the rules, but it does so deliciously: instead of going the traditional Italian route, our chefs opted to mix things up with a jumble of Southwestern flavors. The pre-cut chicken strips get seasoned with blackening seasoning and are tossed in the pan until they’re perfectly smoky and savory. Some poblano pepper and diced tomato add texture and more unconventional flair, while the Monterey Jack cheese sauce brings supreme creaminess to the penne.
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Chicken Breast Strips
Monterey Jack Cheese(ContientMilk)
Wash and dry all produce. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Core and seed poblano, then dice into ½-inch pieces. Trim, then thinly slice scallions, separating greens and whites. Thinly slice garlic. Core and finely chop tomato.
Pat chicken dry with a paper towel. Place in a large bowl with a large drizzle of olive oil, Blackening Spice, and a few big pinches of salt. Toss to coat.
Once water boils, add penne to pot. Cook until al dente, 11-13 minutes. Scoop out and reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water (this’ll help thicken the sauce), then drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add poblano and a pinch of salt. Cook, without disturbing, until beginning to char, about 3 minutes. Add chicken and cook, tossing occasionally, until no longer pink throughout, 3-5 minutes. Stir in scallion whites and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in half the tomato and a pinch of salt.
Reduce heat under pan to medium low. Whisk in cream cheese and ⅓ cup pasta cooking water until thoroughly combined. Turn off heat. Add penne, Monterey Jack cheese, and 2 TBSP butter. Stir until butter melts and a smooth sauce forms. (TIP: Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Season with salt and pepper.
Divide pasta between bowls or plates. Garnish with scallion greens and remaining tomato. (TIP: If you like things spicy, top with a few cracks of fresh black pepper.)