I often refer to easy, quick meals like this Cream Cheese Bacon Chicken Pasta as the kind of recipe that’s perfect for busy weeknights when the kids are at school and we’re all running in a hundred different directions. The point, though, is that we don’t just look for easy recipes when school is on – at least in our home. We are almost always looking for things that we can put on the table without fuss and with ingredients that we already have at home. You would think that as a recipe developer that would not be the case. But I guess it’s one of those “shoemaker kids don’t have shoes” thing. When I’m in the kitchen all day, I rarely want to spend tons of time cooking dinner.
And this summer is a little different for us, because Jack is home all summer. In the past, he’s been to some sort of summer camp—usually swimming, hiking, or kayaking. But this summer, since my test kitchen and office are now in the backyard, we’ve allowed him to stay at our house.
Now, I don’t know when was the last time you tried to feed a 13-year-old boy, but let me tell you… the phrase “eat us out of the house and at home” is 100% correct. This boy is hungry.
When we were testing this recipe, we had only just started cooking the bacon when he poked his head through the door to see what was cooking. And who can blame him? People come running when they smell bacon. And that’s exactly what will happen when you make this dish.
We start with thick-sliced smoked bacon. It gives the sauce a noticeable smokiness and a lot of flavor. Plain sliced bacon will also work. You may need a few more pieces to get enough fat to cook everything else. You will need 2 to 3 tablespoons of bacon grease/fat.
Using the rendered fat to sear the chicken also allows us to carry that flavor throughout the dish. Just be careful not to crowd that pan. You want to brown the chicken nicely and get it golden brown to add even more flavor.
It is important to remember that you only cook the pasta al dente (tender but firm and chewy). It will continue to cook for a bit once it is out of the boiling water and may soften even more once added to the sauce. And make sure not to rinse your pasta in this recipe. Keeping the starch on the pasta will help the sauce stick to the spaghetti.
And while I know how much some of you hate the vagueness of the phrase “add salt and pepper to taste,” it’s really the only way to do it. Different cheeses have different amounts of salt, and based on the amount of salt and pepper you put on the chicken, you may not need more at all. Try it.
Cream Cheese Bacon Chicken Pasta
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
- 1 (16-ounce) package spaghetti
- 5 slices thick-cut bacon
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1½ cups chicken stock
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, diced
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions and set aside.
- In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and leave the bacon drippings in the pan. Crumble and set aside.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown them in the bacon fat over medium heat. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Work in batches as needed to avoid overcrowding the pan.
- Remove the chicken from the pan with tongs or a slotted spoon to allow the bacon fat to remain in the pan. Place the chicken on a plate. Put aside.
- Lower the heat and add the chopped garlic. Fry in the bacon grease until fragrant – about 1 minute – taking care not to burn the garlic.
- Add the chicken stock and milk. Stir to combine.
- Add the cream cheese and cover the pan. Cook for a few minutes or until the cream cheese is almost melted.
- Use a whisk to combine the sauce.
- Add Parmesan cheese to the pan and stir to combine.
- Simmer, uncovered, over low heat until sauce thickens.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Return the chicken and crumbled bacon to the pan along with the pasta and toss together. Serve immediately.