In surfing the internet, I have often come across variations of Cacio e Pepe, a cheese and pepper pasta dish, typically made with Pecorino Romano cheese. This dish came to mind when I was cleaning out my refrigerator before a road trip a few weeks ago. I had on hand dried fusilli pasta, a few tablespoons of cream, and a partial Parmesan wedge. Yes! Simple and delicious, this was a fortifying final meal to pull together in the midst of packing. I told my daughter that it was fancy macaroni and cheese and she loved it. Then, there were plenty of leftovers, which I froze and which we enjoyed the week following our road trip.

Creamy Parmesan and Pepper Fusilli with Chicken

  • Yield: 6–8 servings
  • 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 16 ounce package of fusilli pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons cream
  • 5 ounces Parmesan, about 1 cup finely grated
  • 2–3 chicken breasts
  • olive oil
  • 2–3 teaspoons black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt + 1 tablespoon for the pasta water

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F to cook the chicken and set a large pot of well-salted water to boil for the pasta.
  2. Coat chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on aluminum foil (for easy cleanup) on baking sheet and place in preheated oven. Cook for ten minutes on each side. This method utilizing high heat and a short cook time always yields moist, juicy chicken. Shred chicken once it is cool enough to handle.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Quickly drain the pasta in a colander, returning the pasta to the pot while still dripping with water.
  4. In a large pan, over low heat, quickly toss the pasta with half of the Parmesan, black pepper, cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add some of the reserved pasta water if the pasta seems dry. Remove from heat and fold in the remaining Parmesan and incorporate the shredded chicken. Serve immediately.

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