I must say, simple and delicious are two things I like in a recipe. Bonus points if it looks good to me – extra bonus points if it makes the rest of the family want to eat it up. And, call me crazy, but I also expect a good recipe to have some healthy virtues!
Does that sound like too much to ask?
Yesterday, I had the privilege of cooking for a family that has two children under the age of 10, who were the inspiration for this meal. The fact that my first thought when devising this recipe was making healthy food for them must mean I’ve got some mothering instincts, no? After all, my Cabbage Patch kid was well fed even when I was five.
And, although I don’t yet have children, I too, was a child once. Perhaps the argument can be made that that is still the case, but regardless – I believe that fun shapes and bright colors (and cheese!) can really make food appetizing. Yes, big people can enjoy these factors, too!
Once you’ve got colorful pasta that looks like wheels and bowties and corkscrews covered in cheese, we can enhance the healthification. Add in some whole grain pasta, some assorted veggies, and a lean protein like chicken, and we have a delicious, and might I say good-lookin’ dish right there.
Of course, it’s normal to have a picky eater in the family, so substitutions can always be made. (Frozen carrot squares instead of peas, perhaps?) But I’m hoping that a dish of noodles and cheese can absolve any wrongs a squash has ever done to a child’s (or your!) taste buds, and it will give such peculiar veggies and greens a shot at redemption.
Chicken Pasta with Acorn Squash + Arugula
1 small acorn squash, roasted (375 F. for 40 minutes) and cubed (skin removed after cooking)
½ pound fun-shaped vegetable pasta (tri-colored pasta made with vegetable extracts)
½ pound whole-wheat or part whole wheat pasta (preferably also in a fun shape!)
2 large chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
2 large sprigs rosemary, de-stemmed
Pinch of salt and pepper (or as needed)
½ c. dry white wine (chicken stock can be an alternative), divided
3 large cloves garlic, minced
4 cups fresh baby arugula
About ¾ tsp. onion powder
8 oz. frozen peas (the majority of a small bag)
1 ½ - 2 c. shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
½ c. grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 T. evoo
1 lemon, zested + cut into wedges
This recipe is quickest and easiest if you prepare the acorn squash – or butternut, if you prefer – ahead of time, like on a Saturday. You can keep it chopped and ready in the refrigerator for several days until you are ready for a quick meal. This recipe can take 20-30 minutes, or less if the chicken is made ahead as well!
Boil the pasta in salted water, according to the package instructions.
While the water is boiling, preheat a large non-stick or cast-iron pan over medium heat.
Chop the chicken into chunks. I usually avoid the cutting-board and use kitchen shears for this.
Just before adding half the chicken, spritz the pan with canola oil cooking spray. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on top, as well as half the fresh rosemary. Cook the chicken completely through and move to a separate bowl. Deglaze the pan with ¼ c. of the white wine, adding the minced garlic and other half of the rosemary. Add the rest of the chicken and a little more salt and pepper.
Once the chicken is all cooked and moved to a separate bowl, deglaze the pan once more with the rest of the wine and add the arugula. Cook just until the arugula starts to wilt and transfer the reduced wine and arugula to the bowl of drained noodles.
Finally, time to finish the dish.
Add chicken, onion powder, frozen peas, cheeses (start with a little cheese and add the rest as you deem necessary) and olive oil.
Taste test – you may need a bit more salt if you didn’t add much at first.
Garnish with a pinch more Parmegano and a bit of lemon zest on top. Place a wedge of the lemon on the side for spritzing.