Denise’s Pasta

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Our friends Denise and Bill had us over one evening last summer when we were visiting friends and family in the US, and Denise made this amazing pasta for dinner. It had sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, red pepper, turkey breast, and a garlic-Parmesan cream sauce. When we came back to Spain, we kept thinking and talking about this dish, so finally I had to try to replicate it. We usually make it with chicken breast since turkey breast isn't as common here, and we also add bacon (I can't remember if Denise added that or not) to give it a nice smoky taste. This isn't something we can make all the time due to the fat content, but when we have guests over it makes a nice amount and is a great springboard for sides such as crusty bread and a salad.

Here are the basics of the recipe, but feel free to experiment and add more garlic, Parmesan, and vegetables – good ones would be squash and broccoli.

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DENISE'S PASTA

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients: 

– 1 pound Penne pasta
– 4 TBSP unsalted butter
– 6 strips bacon, really fatty parts removed and discarded and meatier parts diced
– 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
– 4 – 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
– 4 heaping TBSP flour
– 3 cups chicken broth
– 1 zucchini, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced crosswise
– 1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/2-inch-long strips
– About 8 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, diced
– 1 cup half-and-half, heavy cream, or whole milk
– 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and more for serving at the table
– Salt and pepper

Instructions:

1. Boil water and cook pasta according to directions on box. Drain, do not rinse, and let rest until the sauce is finished.

2. While pasta water is boiling, over medium-high heat and in a large stockpot or Dutch oven, melt the butter. Add the bacon and chicken and cook until the chicken is no longer pink. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or so.

3. Add the flour and stir constantly for 2 – 3 minutes or until the flour has cooked down a bit and has incorporated with the butter, making sure neither the garlic nor the flour burn. (I know this is a weird way to make a roux – adding the flour to the butter when so much of the food is already cooking in it – but it's the simplest way when you're trying to get food on the table and it works…for us, at least!)

4. Pour the chicken broth into the pot all at once, stirring/ whisking constantly to break up any flour lumps. Bring the sauce to a boil and let boil for a few minutes until it has thickened a bit. Lower heat to a simmer.

5. Add the zucchini and red pepper and simmer until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and cream, and raise the heat to medium so that the sauce can thicken up a bit more.

6. Add the Parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Add almost all of the pasta and stir. If it seems like the sauce can handle more pasta, add the rest. If you think adding the rest of the pasta will stretch the sauce too thin, save it for another use. Or, add the rest of the pasta and then some chicken broth and/or cream and some more Parmesan – you probably can't go wrong.

7. Serve with additional grated Parmesan. 

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