Chicken Penne Alfredo

Life gets really hectic in the fall.  There are days/weeks when I feel like a single mother, last week was one of those weeks.  I’m not complaining; we’re just busy.  My husband works extremely hard for our family which translates into long hours.  Between teaching, coaching, and running a small business; sometimes he’s just not here.  On the nights when he is gone, I try to make it special for the kids and I.  By special, I mean cook something we don’t usually eat because we know dad doesn’t like it.  Enter creamy pasta sauce.  The other night we made Chicken Penne Alfredo.  It was a classic Alfredo sauce and it was as rich as it was delicious.

a classic alfredo recipe!

I remember cooking often as a kid growing up.  I remember standing in our kitchen with orange countertops, making home-made pizzas.  I would make pizza dough and pizza sauce from scratch.  I would make this dish, too.  I remember standing at the stove, stirring this sauce, thinking how cool that I can make Alfredo!  I loved to bake, too.  I would spend hours baking cookies, pies, and cakes.  I loved being in the kitchen.  There was something so magical about it.  I still remember the cookbooks I had.  There was a classic home desserts book, an apple shaped book with a bunch of apple recipes, one of those klutz kids cookbooks, and some sort of prairie or pioneer cookbook that had a maroon cover.  (I was really into The Little House on the Prairie books back then.) Anyway….
Alfredo sauce doesn’t require many ingredients.  Only 3 actually; butter, cream, and parmesan cheese.    It is probably one of the easier pasta dishes you could make at home, even though it seems as if it would be complicated.  All you do is melt butter and stir in the cream.  Heat the cream to just below boiling.  Then add in the cheese at the very end and stir until it melts.  Toss in your cooked pasta and serve!  It’s a 20 minute meal, if that.  Great for a busy night when you don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen.  
I used Mini Penne pasta.  Have you seen those?  They’re so cute.  It makes dinner time with a toddler and baby so easy.  I don’t have to stand over plates of long noodles cutting them into tiny pieces for what seems like hours.  You can certainly use fettuccini, penne, or any shape you like.  

As far as the cheese goes, I found a bag of freshly shaved cheese at my grocery store; it was a blend of parmesan, asiago, and romano cheeses.  That’s what I used to make this Alfredo.  If you’re going to make this dish, I highly recommend finding real parmesan cheese (or a blend like I used), either freshly grated or grate it yourself.  Don’t use the stuff in the green can.  Please.  I beg of you.

I would love to play around with this sauce and see if I can come up with a lower calorie version, because let’s face it, this is not very friendly on your waistline.  But it sure is fun to splurge once in a while!
classic alfredo ingredients

Chicken Penne Alfredo

1 lb chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
1 lb Penne Pasta
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
Pepper to taste
1 cup (8 oz) freshly grated parmesan cheese, or a blend of Parmesan, Romano and/or Asiago

Season and grill chicken breasts according to your preference.  (Marinating the breasts in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper would be great.) Allow to rest and slice into strips.  Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, salt the water, and boil pasta according to package directions for al dente.  While the pasta is cooking, heat butter and cream over low-medium heat in a large sauté pan.  Season with pepper to taste.  Heat until mixture is just beginning to simmer, stirring sauce occasionally.  At this point, turn the heat to low and stir in the cheese until melted, being careful not to overheat or boil the sauce.  Drain (and do not rinse) the pasta; toss directly into the sauce.  Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.  The sauce will begin to thicken as it cools slightly.  Top each portion with sliced chicken breasts or mix them into the sauce with the pasta.  Serve and eat immediately.  

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