If you’ve been seeing my Instagram posts this week, it’s been a week of Smoked Chicken meals! We spent last Saturday smoking a bunch of chicken thighs and chicken drumsticks. Needless to say, I had a lot of chicken to use up this week! I really enjoy thinking up inventive ways to use up leftovers, and this dish really made our chicken leftovers feel like a decadent, comforting meal.
One of my husband’s favorite pasta dishes is a creamy smoked chicken pasta. I remember this was one of the first dishes I made for him when we got a whole smoked chicken from his parents (Hi Tom and Sandra!). The pasta was delicious! A rich, creamy, cheesy sauce with a smokey echo from the chicken…. Total drool fest! Of course, back then, I made the creamy sauce with butter, whole milk, cheese – the trifecta of dairy. And nowadays, my mission is to take this beloved dish and #healthify it, but still making sure it was absolutely delectable!
My healthy swaps in this dish actually caused the whole meal to be made in less than 30 mins! This is a huge help in the middle of the week when your meal prep foods are running low and you need to make something hearty that the family will eat. Also you will definitely want leftovers of this pasta for lunch the next day!
There are few handy tips when cooking this dish. First, instead of filling a huge pot with water, bringing it to the boil, then dropping in the pasta to cook, you can use a tall sided sauce pan and fill with 4 cups of water. Once it boils, you add in the pasta and cook till all the water is absorbed. This method comes from Alton Brown and Giada de Laurentiis. It truly shortens the cooking time and saves having to drain the pasta once it’s cooked.
Second, the creamy sauce is actually made in a blender! An impossibly easy and quick sauce to make! Instead of using butter, milk and cheese, this sauce doesn’t contain any dairy. Instead, it’s a mixture of cashews, sunflower seeds, chicken broth and seasonings. When you put this in a high speed blender, it creates a super creamy, thick sauce. This is actually a play on another Giada recipe, Almond in Penne Sauce. To take this creamy sauce to the next level, I added in some nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that looks like small yellow flakes. It is high in vitamin B and actually has a nutty, cheesy taste. I know, it sounds weird, but I assure you, it tastes really good! Plus, it really adds the perfect amount of delicious, cheesy flavor to the sauce.
Lastly, there are so many pasta options at the grocery stores now! I used a gluten free linguine but really any pasta shape will work in this recipe. I also really like Banza pasta which is made out of chickpeas. It is high in protein, fiber and gluten free. Plus its really delicious! Both the kids and my husband really like it.
I really hope you give this recipe a try!
- 4 cups of water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb linguine pasta can be gluten free if desired
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 2 ¼ cup reduced sodium chicken broth
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 3 cloves of garlic peeled
- 1 lb smoked chicken shredded into large chunks
- 1 handful of kale torn or chopped into small bite size pieces
- Pink Himalayan salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
In a large saucepan, pour in the water, oil and 1 tsp of salt. Bring to the boil.
Add in the linguine pasta and stir till all the pasta is submerged.
Allow to cook, stirring frequently, till the water is mostly absorbed and the pasta is al dente. If needed, add a little more water, ½ cup at a time, and allow pasta to continue cooking till al dente, stirring frequently.
While the pasta is cooking, add the cashews, sunflower seeds, chicken broth, nutritional yeast, garlic and ½ tsp black pepper, to a high speed blender or food processor. Blend all the ingredients till a smooth sauce forms. Taste and season as desired.
Once the pasta is cooked and almost all the liquid in the pan is absorbed, add about half of the sauce to the pasta and stir well. Feel free to add in more sauce if needed.
Add in the chicken and kale and toss well.
Sprinkle with a little more kale and serve!
Store remaining sauce in the fridge in an airtight container. Add more sauce to the pasta leftovers or use it as a creamy dressing for salads.