I often refer to easy, quick meals like this Cream Cheese Bacon Chicken Pasta as the type of recipe that’s perfect for busy weeknights when the kids are in school and we’re all running in a hundred different directions. The thing is, though, it’s not just when school is in a session that we’re looking for easy recipes – at least at our house. We’re pretty much always looking for things that we can get on the table without a lot of run and with ingredients we already have in the house. You’d think that as a recipe developer that wouldn’t be the case. But I think it’s one of those “cobbler’s children have no shoes” things. When I’m in the kitchen all day, I rarely want to spend tons of time cooking supper.
And this summer is a bit different for us because Jack’s at home all summer. In the past, he’s been at some kind of summer camp – usually out swimming, hiking or kayaking. But this summer, since my test kitchen and office is right in the backyard now, we have allowed him to stay home with us.
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 “eating us out of house and home” is 100% correct. This kid is ravenous.
When we were testing this recipe, we had Barely started cooking the bacon when they popped his head in the door to see what was cooking. And who blames him? Folks come a-runnin ‘when they smell bacon. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen when you make this dish.
We start with thick-cut, smoked bacon. It gives the sauce a noticeable smokiness and tons of flavor. Regular-cut bacon will work as well. You just might 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 helps us carry that flavor throughout the dish. Just be sure not to crowd that pan. You want to get a nice sear on the chicken and get it golden brown to add even more flavor.
It’s important to remember to cook the pasta only to al dente (tender but firm and chewy). It will continue to cook a bit once it’s out of the boiling water and can soften even more once it’s added to the sauce. And be sure not to rinse your pasta in this recipe. Keeping the Starch on the pasta will help the sauce to stick to the spaghetti.
And while I know how much some of y’all hate the vagueness of the phrase “add salt and pepper to taste,” it’s really the only way to do it. Different cheeses will have different amounts of salt, and based on the amount of salt and pepper you put on the chicken, you might not need any more at all. Just taste it.
Cream Cheese Bacon Chicken Pasta
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook 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, minced
- 1½ cups chicken broth
- 1 cup milk
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cut into cubes
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Cook the pasta to al dente, according to the package instructions, and set aside.
- In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels, keeping the bacon drippings in the pan. Crumble and set aside.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper and sear in the bacon grease over medium heat. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes on each side or until brown. Work in batches if necessary to prevent crowding the pan.
- Remove chicken from pan using tongs or a slotted spoon to allow bacon grease to remain in the pan. Place chicken on a plate. Set aside.
- Lower the heat to low and add the minced garlic. Cook in the bacon grease until fragrant – about 1 minute – being careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add the chicken broth and milk. Stir to combine.
- Add the cream cheese and cover the pan. Cook for a few minutes or until cream cheese is nearly melted.
- Use a whisk to combine the sauce.
- Add Parmesan cheese to the pan and whisk together.
- Simmer, Uncovered, over low heat until sauce thickens.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Return chicken and crumbled bacon to the pan along with the pasta and toss together. Serve immediately.