Chicken, Broccoli & Rigatoni with Pancetta

Chicken Broccoli Rigatoni

This is one of those meals that everyone in the family will eat.  Horray!  With children ages 4 and 6 (that do not share the same taste in food) it’s hard to find something to please everyone.  My kids refuse to eat certain foods (I know I'm not alone here...it's frustrating, isn't it?).  When I was growing up, my sister and I ate whatever dish my Mom served us.  Luckily, my kids have been getting a little better about trying new things.  But, if they don’t like it, I’ve tried to refrain from making anything else.  You get what you get and you don’t get upset, right?!?

This recipe I created has a little more flavor and less fat than your traditional Chicken, Broccoli  & Ziti that you find on a restaurant menu.  It's a well balanced meal but still very filling.  I will usually make a pasta dish like this on a Sunday, a day we are most likely to indulge a bit more.  

I love rigatoni for the larger shape.  All the flavor of the sauce, pieces of chicken, pancetta and broccoli get stuck in the tubes which makes for a perfect bite every time.  I like to grill the chicken because it gives the whole dish a nice charred flavor, which I love but you could certainly sauté the chicken in the skillet with the pancetta and garlic.

When I’m trying to go for an even lighter version, I use gluten free pasta, remove the flour and go a little easier on the cheese.  There is no way I can completely remove the cheese because, well, it’s parmesan cheese!  If you are trying to go dairy free, there are many options out there to substitute those ingredients.

Chicken Broccoli and Rigatoni with Pancetta

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled and cut into bite size pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 4 oz. diced pancetta (I buy this already diced in a package at Trader Joe's)
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes, then put in an ice bath to stop the cooking (this also helps to keep the broccoli bright green)
  • 8 ounces rigatoni 
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup white wine (I use a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 small container plain nonfat greek yogurt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add pancetta and cook until crispy.  Pancetta is a bit greasy so I usually remove some of the grease before continuing.  Add the garlic, stirring frequently, until it is golden brown but not burnt, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the butter (or ghee) and let it melt.

Whisk in the flour until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the white wine and let it cook for 1 minute (to avoid burning, turn down the heat and continuously whisk). Then add the chicken broth, Greek yogurt, black and crushed red pepper and nutmeg. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring gently, until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Stir in parmesan cheese.

Add grilled chicken and broccoli to sauce mixture, followed by the cooked pasta. Toss to combine and serve with fresh grated parmesan, if desired.

*Note, I did not use salt in this recipe because pancetta and parmesan cheese have enough salt in my opinion.  I do however add salt, pepper and olive oil to my chicken before grilling.

Buon Appetito!