Recipe: Jalapeno, Bacon, and Chicken Pasta with a White Cheddar Sauce

Last week, I planned out my meals for the week, buying all of my groceries in one go at the beginning of the week and assigning different meals to each day. My plan got a little kink in it at the end of the week when I didn’t end up making the jalapeno-and-cream cheese stuffed chicken I had planned on making and instead used the cream cheese in my lemon and raspberry cheesecake. I also had green onions stashed in the veggie drawer that I had bought for a tuna dish I thought I would be making but couldn’t (due to the fact that my crappy local grocery store never has tuna; I grabbed the green onions before making my way to the fish counter and finding out they hadn’t gotten any tuna in for the day). So, I had jalapenos and green onions to use, plus the cheddar cheese that was called for in the jalapeno-and-cream cheese chicken recipe, plus half of a red onion from another dish I made, plus some heavy cream. I went through my quite common “What can I make with this assortment of ingredients?” routine and settled on making a spicy, cheesy pasta dish with chicken and a little bacon, for good measure. The resulting meal was quite tasty—tender chicken and pasta tossed with crispy bacon, lightly cooked green onion and red onion, jalapenos (minus the seeds, to help cut back on the spiciness), and a light and creamy white cheddar sauce.

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. rotini, or other small/short pasta
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeds removed, finely chopped*
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2-1 cup heavy cream
  • Approx. 4 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Butter, as needed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cornstarch-and-water mixture, as needed
*When removing the seeds from the jalapenos, use gloves or whatever is available to cover your fingers so as to avoid getting the seeds and oil on your fingers. The oil in jalapenos is very spicy/hot and stays on your skin for quite some time, even with frequent hand-washing. I made the mistake of not using gloves and I could still feel and taste the jalapeno on my hands after two days. On a related note, if you want more spice in your dish, add in some of the seeds—they’re where the real heat is. 
Directions
Heat water in a medium-sized pot over high heat. While waiting for the water to boil, heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Cook until crisp, but not overcooked, and remove to a paper towel-covered plate to drain. Leave the bacon grease in the pan and add the chicken, cooking until golden brown and cooked almost all the way through. When the water in the pot is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package instructions (approx. 10-12 minutes). To the pan with the chicken, add the green onion, red onion, and jalapeno and cook over medium heat until they are tender. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper (and butter, if needed) and reduce the heat to low. Crumble the bacon and add the bits to the veggies and chicken. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add the heavy cream and heat slowly over medium high heat. Once simmering, slowly whisk in the cheddar cheese and some salt and pepper. Allow the cheese to melt into the cream. Add some cornstarch-and-water mixture if the sauce seems too thin. Cheddar doesn’t always melt very well, so the sauce may not be as smooth as you want, but once mixed with the other ingredients, this isn’t noticeable. When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Add the chicken and veggie mixture to the pasta and toss to combine. Pour the cheddar sauce over the pasta mixture and toss to combine. Add more salt and pepper, if desired. Serve topped with shredded cheddar cheese.
This dish is a perfect mix of spicy, salty, cheesy, and savory. The cheddar sauce pulls everything together and helps mellow and evenly distribute the heat from the jalapenos. Tender chicken and crispy bacon add a little dose of flavorful protein and the flavors of the green and red onions really kick the dish up a notch. 
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