Cheesy Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta

This was a WONDERFUL meal. One of those memorable dinners that you love every bite of, and are already plotting to eat the leftovers the next day. It is somewhat labor / ingredient intensive and it took us awhile to get this one completed and on the table, and that was with my husband already having prepped the chicken, and two adults sort of tag-teaming in the kitchen. Factor in a very tired and cranky teething baby who needed a lot of attention and entertainment and you can understand why the cooking process was probably lengthier for us than it should have been!

Our sweet baby girl is cutting two more teeth. Our 10.5 month old cutie pie is already the proud owner of SIX shiny, sharp teeth. Numbers seven and eight are simultaneously vying for their above gum inhabitance. This poor kid doesn't get a break when it comes to teething. It's been a matter of about 2 weeks since she finally cut her last one, and now she's got these two pushing on up. She tends to cut them 2 at a time, one will usually pop through and then the 2nd one within 2-3 days. The last two she cut (on either side of her front, top teeth) were the farthest apart, with about 1.5 weeks between (which just meant the teething fun dragged on a little longer... sigh).

In the 2 - 3 days before a tooth breaks through, Lindsey's sleep gets really messed up. The last three nights have been bad. Last night between midnight - 2 am she woke up crying off and on, and off and on, and off and on. At about 12:20 when it didn't look like she was going right back to sleep, I went in, gave her a bottle and rocked her back to sleep. She started crying as soon as I laid her down. I let her cry, and about 10 minutes later she was asleep, 15 minutes after that she was awake and crying. This went on for 2 hours until she finally gave in, for real, and stayed asleep until 5:30 when she awoke briefly crying, then back to sleep until 6:30 when it was time to go to daycare. She is obviously in pain and uncomfortable. We give her a dose of IB profen before bedtime on the bad nights, but it only seems to help for the first 4-5 hours. I know we're still early into the teething business, but man I'm looking forward to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. This is one tired mama.

In any event, throughout the course of both my husband and I trying to cook, and placate our fussy baby, there were some steps that got bypassed on accident in making this recipe. I skipped sauteing the chicken and went straight to creating the sauce. When my husband pointed out my error, instead of separately sauteing the chicken, we opted to throw the uncooked chicken and the raw veggies directly into the prepared sauce (I hadn't added the cheese to it yet, thankfully), and allow that to simmer for about 15 minutes which cooked the chicken and veggies through and didn't really alter anything, other than the texture of the vegetables and chicken most likely. It worked though, and actually saved us a step... sort of...

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta slightly adapted from Carlsbad Cravings
Chicken Marinade
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
¼ cup ranch dressing
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground mustard
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 pound penne pasta
3 cups broccoli, cut into bite size pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bell pepper, chopped (we used green)
3-4 tsp minced garlic

Cheese Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups low-fat milk (we used almond milk)
1 teaspoon coarse ground mustard
2 tablespoons dry ranch dressing seasoning mix
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ - ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional - I used a couple small shakes)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Crumbled bacon

  1. In a medium sized Tupperware (large enough to hold diced chicken), combine marinade ingredients; mix in chicken, cover and place in refrigerator and allow to rest at least 30 minutes.
  2. Bring a large, salted pot of water to boil. Cook penne pasta according to package directions. For the last 4 minutes or so of cooking time on the pasta, add in the broccoli and cook until it reaches desired tenderness. Drain pasta and broccoli, return to the empty pot, and keep warm until ready to use.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet heat 1 TBS oil over medium - high heat. Add chicken, along with all the marinade, season to taste with salt and pepper. When the outside of the chicken is no longer pink, add in the red pepper and the onion and cook until chicken is completely cooked through, and vegetables are crisp-tender (about 5 - 10 minutes).
  4. Dump cooked chicken, veggies, and any remaining sauce / liquid into the pot with the pasta and broccoli. Cover again.
  5. In the same non-stick skillet, add 1 TBS butter and 1 TBS olive oil over medium heat. When the butter has melted, whisk in the flour. Cook and stir continuously for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk; stir vigorously until the roux and the liquid are evenly and smoothly combined.
  6. Turn the heat up a little to medium - high and whisk in the ground mustard, ranch dressing mix, additional salt and pepper to taste, red pepper flakes (if using), and dried basil. Once your sauce has reached desired consistency, remove it from the heat and add the cheese, stirring gently until incorporated. Pour sauce over the pasta / broccoli / chicken in the large pot and stir to combine.
  7. Plate the pasta, and sprinkle desired amount of crumbled bacon over the top.
Lindsey - 10.5 months old and enjoying some sunshine!


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