Monday, February 13, 2012

Chicken and Mushroom Penne with Sundried Tomato Pesto Feta Cream Sauce

If you're wanting to cook for Valentine's Day this year and are still trying to decide what to make, this just might be your dish. It's delicious!

My baby sister graduated from Texas A&M a couple of years ago and her graduation dinner was held at her favorite restaurant nearby, Caffe Capri in Bryan, TX. We talked to them ahead of time about gluten-free needs for several family members and they assured us it would be no problem and they regularly fixed gluten-free versions of a few dishes for patrons who needed them. I am happy to say that we had no problems, and the meal was so delicious that I needed to try to recreate the dish we ate, as living about 12 hours away made it impossible to dine there very often.

The dish they served us was a version of their "bowtie affair" which is described as "bowtie pasta with a sundried tomato pesto, mushrooms & chicken in a feta cheese cream sauce." They served it to us with gluten-free penne. I successfully recreated this dish to the best of my ability last year and don't know why I'm only now sharing it with you. (My cousin has been holding her famous carrot cake recipe ransom for this recipe, so I'm looking forward to now trying to make her cake gluten-free!) I made it again the other night and was once again struck by how delicious the flavor combination is. The whole family loves this dish.

In my version, I make feta cream sauce an all-in-one with homemade sundried tomato pesto (you can buy ready-made sundried tomato pesto but 1. Not all versions are gluten-free and 2. Homemade tastes much better), then serve the sauce over a bed of penne topped with chicken and mushrooms. You could certainly try tossing the pasta with the pesto (say that 10 times fast!) first, then combining the chicken and mushrooms with the feta cream sauce and serving over the pesto pasta.

To save time in preparing all of it, you could make the sauce ahead of time and reheat it. I find it stores pretty well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The sauce is worth making alone just serve over some type of pasta, even if you don't want the chicken etc.

Projected start to finish: 45 minutes-1 hour (unless you make sauce ahead of time, see above)
(Printable recipe)

Sundried tomato pesto:
1/2 tsp. dried basil (or about a small handful if you have fresh)
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 5.8 oz. jar sundried tomatoes in olive oil (if you can only find 8 oz. jar, estimate about 6 oz.)

Feta cream sauce:
1 pint heavy whipping cream (or you could use 1/2 pint cream and a cup of milk to make it less heavy)
1 4 oz. container crumbled feta cheese

Chicken & mushrooms:
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins, cut into small pieces
1 small onion, diced
1 small package (about 8 oz.) fresh mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

1 package gluten-free penne (I use Tinkyada in these photos. Schar also makes a good one), prepared according to directions until al dente

Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente. (I like the energy-saving method on Tinkyada's noodles.) When it's finished, rinse with cool water, drain and toss with olive oil. Set aside.

Blend tomatoes (with olive oil they were packed in), garlic and basil in food processor until pesto consistency.

Dice onion and saute in olive oil in large pan while cutting chicken into small (1/2 inch to 1 inch) pieces. Add chicken to onions and cook through. Salt to taste, and add a little pepper at the end.

In a smaller pan, heat sliced mushrooms over medium-low heat and sprinkle just a bit of kosher salt over them. Toss occasionally, and cook only until softened a little from their fresh state.

Heat cream over low-medium heat in a small or medium saucepan and add crumbled feta. Stir often and continue heating until feta is melted and blended with cream. Whisk pesto into cream until blended well. Salt to taste if necessary.

To serve, place penne on plate, top with chicken and mushrooms, then spoon sauce on top.



  1. This looks absolutely perfect, Caneel! If I had mushrooms on hand, I'd be making this for dinner tonight. I'll be trying it soon, though!

  2. I tried it tonight :) Delicious! You did a great job adapting the recipe!

  3. Fantastic recipe! Thanks for sharing! ME

    1. So glad it lived up to your expectations after I took so long to give it to you! :)

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