Baked Chicken Pasta

Anytime you put pasta and cheese together you are going to have a hit, unless it is one of those strongly aromatic ones like goat cheese--but I like that, too! This recipe for Baked Chicken Pasta uses the two American standards: mozzarella and parmesan, but you can always substitute your own favorite kind.

This dish can be prepared quickly and popped into the oven and that makes it a favorite around our house. If zucchini is not to your liking, throw in a vegetable that you like instead. Cooking is a flexible thing. For six people, you'll need:

3 TB              olive oil
1 pound           chicken breast cut into strips
1/2               onion, sliced thin
2 cups            sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 TB              fresh garlic
4 ea.             roma tomates, diced
1 ea.             zucchini, diced
4 cups            of your favorite tomato sauce
1 pound           rainbow pasta, cooked al dente
2 cups            shredded mozzarella
2 TB              fresh grated parmesan
to taste          salt and pepper

The shiitake mushrooms impart a wonderful delicate flavor to the pasta. Do not use the stems when you chop them up, because they are grainy and tough. The Japanese have been cooking with shiitakes for over 2000 years. They are now grown commercially over here, which makes them affordable to buy.

Place the oil in a hot, oven-ready pan and saute the chicken strips until lightly browned. Add your mushrooms, onion and garlic and cook while stirring until the onions are translucent. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, sauce and pasta. Mix well, correct seasonings (add salt and pepper to taste) and then top with your cheeses. Place in a 350 oven for about 20 minutes. Now all you need is the wine. Pasta with a red sauce needs a red wine with some body. There is one made in Holly, Michigan called Cady Lake. It's a red table wine made by Seven Lakes Vineyard. It's robust enough to go with the pasta. Michigan is really producing some nice wines of late. We're so proud of them at the Loon River Café that we serve only Michigan wines....and all by the glass. Come give them a try. And as always, a creative cook is a good cook.