Thursday, March 13, 2014

Chicken Pasta with Dates, Pecans, and Cauliflower Sauce

Here's the latest creation from Mama's Kitchen using a delicious cauliflower garlic sauce from Pinch of Yum (see link below).  We made the cauliflower sauce earlier in the week, but it made so much that I froze half of it to use for another recipe.  So then I needed another recipe to use it in... hence this one was born!  This pasta is sort of a combination of a few of my favorite dishes - chicken alfredo, sweet onion tart, and bowtie pasta because they're just so darn cute.  Call it a craving or a revelation, but these flavors mixed very well and made for one yummy pasta dish!  Luckily Dan, Shawna, and Remy didn't mind being my guinea pigs and enjoyed it, too!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Chicken Pasta with Dates, Pecans, and Cauliflower Sauce

- 1/2 batch cauliflower sauce (see recipe from Pinch of Yum here, ingredients below)
- 1 c. milk (or more to thin)
- meat from 1 rotisserie chicken (approximately 2 c. cooked chicken)
- 1 lb. box bowtie pasta
- 2 T. butter
- 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/4 t. pepper
- 1/2 c. chopped dates
- 1/3 c. pecan pieces
- 1/2 t. nutmeg
- 1/2 c. grated parmesan
- fresh parsley, for garnish

*for cauliflower sauce: (for half batch - I made a whole batch and froze half to save for the above recipe)
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 T. butter
- 1 head cauliflower, chopped
- 3-4 c. vegetable broth or water
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/4 t. pepper
- 1/2 c. milk (I increased the amount the author suggested b/c I ended up adding more)
- 3-4 T. olive oil


1.  Make the cauliflower sauce (this can be done ahead and kept in fridge or frozen).  When finished, set aside.
     Instructions (from Pinch of Yum):
  1. Garlic: Saute the minced garlic with the butter in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Cook for several minutes or until the garlic is soft and fragrant but not browned (browned or burnt garlic will taste bitter). Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Cauliflower: Bring the water or vegetable broth to a boil in a large pot. Add the cauliflower and cook, covered, for 7-10 minutes or until cauliflower is fork tender. Do not drain.
  3. Puree: Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cauliflower pieces to the blender. Add 1 cup vegetable broth or cooking liquid, sauteed garlic/butter, salt, pepper, and milk. Blend or puree for several minutes until the sauce is very smooth, adding more broth or milk depending on how thick you want the sauce. You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your blender. Serve hot! If the sauce starts to look dry, add a few drops of water, milk, or olive oil.
2.  In a large sauce pan or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add sliced onions, salt, and pepper and cook for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and cook for an additional 20 minutes to caramelize.

3.  Add chopped dates and pecans to the onion mixture and continue cooking for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.  Reserve about a cup of pasta water before draining to thin sauce at the end, if needed.

4.  Add cauliflower sauce, nutmeg, and additional 1 c. milk to the onion mixture.  Cook on low-medium heat for a few minutes, then stir in parmesan cheese until melted.

5.  Add the coarsely shredded/chopped chicken to the sauce, cook 5-7 minutes until heated through, then pour sauce over the pasta.  Add reserved pasta water to thin the sauce and make it wonderfully creamy.  Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.  (For a prettier presentation, serve pasta topped with sauce instead of mixing it all together.)

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