The inspiration for my Chicken Farfalle w/ Sundried Tomato Mushroom Garlic Cream Sauce was Grandma (of course!) Years and years ago, when my Grandma was still able to get around (she’s now 103 and everything is much more difficult), she lived on her own in an adorable apartment in a senior living complex and I would come and visit her and take her to lunch and to run errands. She loved going to the mall (she used Estee Lauder skincare products for as long as I can remember and I would take her to the department store where she knew all of the ladies at the Estee Lauder counter and they would come out from behind the counter and hug her and kiss her) or to a movie. I would ask her where she wanted to go to lunch and every time, she would say, “wherever you want to go, sweetheart.” I knew Macaroni Grill was her favorite, so I would suggest Macaroni Grill and she would always say, “Oh good, I’m glad you chose Macaroni Grill. I love that place.” I don’t think she ever caught on that I chose that restaurant because it was her favorite, not because it’s where I wanted to go. I haven’t been there for years, but they used to have a dish called Pasta Milano that had chicken and sundried tomatoes and mushrooms in a cream sauce. It was very, very rich and I could never finish my bowl, but I loved it. I think it had spinach also and I’m not a spinach fan so I would get it without spinach and asked them to add toasted pine nuts.
I decided to create a similar dish. It reminds me of those treasured times with Grandma and the great talks we would have. My version is a little lighter (a modified cream sauce) and I think it’s better. It’s always fun to make things at home and experiment with measurements and ingredients until you get it just right. I finally got this dish just right. It’s definitely a splurge dish, but there is no butter and a fairly reasonable amount of cream for the size of the dish but there is no compromise on taste.
Start by toasting some pine nuts in a dry pan. Cook them until they are just lightly toasted. Toasting the nuts adds a great depth of flavor and a great crunch that gives the dish a wonderful texture. You’ve seen in other dishes that I toast sesame seeds and almond slivers. I like toasting things.
While the pine nuts are toasting, start cooking the chicken. I like using chicken breasts. I’m not a big dark meat fan, so I like using the breast cut. Cut it up into bite-sized pieces and just cook it in a little bit of olive oil with S&P and some crushed red pepper flakes.
Once the chicken is completely cooked, remove it from the pan and add a little more olive oil and the garlic and once the garlic is just turning brown, add the sliced mushrooms and cook them until they start to shrink up. I prefer using baby bella mushrooms in this dish. You can use white button mushrooms, but the baby bellas have much better flavor. They are much meatier and tastier.
After the mushrooms are done cooking, remove them from the pan and add the Neufchatel cheese and cream and heat them until the cheese has melted and starts to bubble and then add in the sundried tomatoes.
Once the sauce has heated through, add back in the chicken and mushrooms and toss in the pine nuts and pasta and basil and parmesan and mix it until the sauce coats all of the ingredients.
This is a fantastic dish for entertaining and although it does have cream in it, using the Neufchatel cheese is a great substitute for butter and tons of parmesan cheese that you find in a traditional Alfredo sauce. Personally, I feel that Alfredo sauce is too rich, but this sauce is just right. Do I sound like Goldilocks? “This porridge is too hot! This porridge is too cold! This porridge is just right!” I’m dating myself.
I hope that you will give my Chicken Farfalle w/ Sundried Tomato Mushroom Garlic Cream Sauce a try and post a picture on Instagram and use the hashtag #ketchumkitchen and come back and leave me a comment and let me know how it turned out.