Pollo pasta al forno

A classic pasta bake with a cream base rather than a tomato one. No particular cooking magic here. Just a good old winter warmer to be spooned out and shared with friends. This is a pretty rich dish so it would definitely benefit from a bitter side salad.

Serves 3 – 4

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100g pancetta, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
500g chicken thighs, diced
350g penne or rigatoni pasta
300ml double cream
300g baby spinach
30g cup grated parmesan, plus extra for topping

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Preheat oven to 180C.

Add the olive oil to a large pan and fry the pancetta on a medium heat until lightly golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the flavoured oil behind.

Add the onions to the pan and turn the heat to low. Cook them for 10 to 15 minutes until they turn soft and translucent. Add the garlic for the last few minutes of cooking.

Add more oil if necessary and fry the chicken until lightly browned.

Pour the cream into the pan and bring it to a low simmer. Add the cheese, cooked pancetta and spinach and cook until the spinach has wilted into the sauce. Season well with salt and pepper.

When the pasta is just al dente, transfer it to the saucepan with some of the pasta water. Mix the pasta and sauce together and pour it into a large ovenproof dish.

Grate more cheese onto the top of the mixture and bake the pasta in the oven on the middle shelf for 20 minutes.

Notes

Cream has a tendency to make all your delicious seasoning disappear, even with the pancetta, so make sure you taste the final sauce for salt before you add the pasta.

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that I call for penne pasta but have used fusili in the photo. I do think penne is better for holding a nice puddle of cream sauce inside of it but I only had fusili and I wanted to eat this so fusili it was!