Cheesy Ranch Pasta

IMG_0822 small title
Coming up with a title for this delicious dish was difficult, so you’re stuck with a name that does not begin to describe how tasty this cheesy ranch pasta with chicken and bacon really is. The first time I made this a few months ago, my husband raved about it and told me to make it again. So here it is!
Source: Cassie Craves
Ingredients: chicken, bacon, noodles, flour, milk, cheese, and ranch seasoning packet.

Gather it up: chicken (tenderloins or chicken breast work best), bacon (turkey or pork is fine, bacon bits if you want to save on time), noodles (penne or any small noodle), flour, milk, cheese (any cheese works, but shred by hand if possible – see note below), and a ranch seasoning packet.

Note that crispy turkey bacon doesn't crumble well, as my husband discovered when I tried to enlist his help.

Brown the bacon and crumble, or just use bacon bits. We had some turkey bacon on hand which notoriously does not crumble well, so pre-slicing before cooking is a good idea.

That dark spot is steam from the pan. Not the fault of photographer or camera.

Cook and dice (or dice and cook) the chicken in 1 tablespoon reserved bacon grease (drain the rest) or melted butter to brown nicely.

This is the process used to typically make a roux: butter/bacon fat and flour. This won't scorch as easily as a traditional roux because of the milk added soon after.

Once chicken is cooked, add flour and ranch seasoning packet and stir.

It looks a little weird, but it's going to be addicting. I promise.

Add milk and stir until well mixed. Let simmer until slightly thickened. Meanwhile, boil the water and cook pasta according to directions on the box.

Kaşar cheese looks like a giant block of mozzarella made with whole-fat milk. It has a very heavy taste by itself but works well in this dish. Any other cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, colby, muenster, etc.) would work just as well.

Measure out about a cup of shredded cheese. Pre-shredded cheese from a bag may not melt as smooth since it has an anti-caking agent that inhibits melting. I used about a cup of whole-fat Kaşar cheese imported from Turkey and about a tablespoon of shredded mozzarella, but I’ve also used cheddar before.

Be sure to stir pretty frequently, at least once a minute, while the sauce is thickening. Too thick, and you won't have enough to coat the noodles.

Add cheese to chicken mixture and stir thoroughly until melted. Let simmer until thickened to your preference. If you anticipate having leftovers (feeds 6, or 4 very hungry adults), leave it a little runny for best reheating.

My favorite part: bacon.

Add about half of the crumbled bacon or bacon bits and stir well.

That wasn't so hard, was it?
After draining pasta, add to pan and stir to combine. Serve with remaining bacon bits on top.
A pretty bowl with some extra bacon and a veggie on the side rounds out a hearty dinner.
My recipe:

  • 1 pound mostaccioli or other short pasta
  • 6 strips of turkey bacon (or approximately 1/2 cup bacon bits)
  • 1 tablespoon reserved bacon grease (or 1 tablespoon melted butter)
  • 1 split chicken breast, diced (2 chicken breasts or several chicken tenderloins also work)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 packet ranch dressing packet
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used kaşar and mozzarella)

 

Cook bacon. Drain on paper towels, reserving about 1 tablespoon grease in pan. Cook diced chicken until no longer pink. Add flour and ranch packet and stir well to coat. Add milk and let simmer until thickened. Meanwhile, cook pasta in separate pan according to directions on box. Add cheese and bacon to chicken mixture and stir thoroughly. Drain pasta and add to chicken pan and mix. Serve with remaining bacon on top.

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