This quick and easy weeknight pasta uses a homemade parmesan sauce, chicken, and plenty of spinach!
- 1 pound pasta (we used penne)
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- 2 Tablespoons cream cheese (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
- 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
- 3 heaping cups fresh spinach, lightly chopped
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water (step 1)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the penne in very salty water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water (reserve more if doubling or tripling the recipe), then drain pasta and return the pot to the stove.
- Add butter to pot and melt over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add flour to butter and whisk to combine. Let cook for 1 minute until fragrant and lightly browned.
- Add milk a little at a time, whisking constantly to work out any lumps. Milk will thicken up quickly at the beginning, but as you whisk the rest of the milk in it will loosen the sauce.
- Cook sauce, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 6 minutes.
- Add chicken, spinach, and cream cheese. Stir until cheese has melted.
- Turn off the heat and stir in parmesan cheese.
- Return cooked pasta to sauce and stir to combine. Stir in the reserved pasta water a few Tablespoons at a time until sauce is smooth and creamy (you may not need all of the pasta water.)
- Taste the pasta! Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with extra parmesan and fresh cracked black pepper (optional) and serve immediately.
Shred your own parmesan cheese for best results. Store-bought shredded cheese often has preservatives that prevent it from melting smoothly. We recommend using a good parmigiano-reggiano cheese and shredding it yourself.
Additions and Substitutions. Use shrimp, salmon, or sausage in place of the chicken. Add crispy bacon or prosciutto as a topping. Add extra veggies (broccoli, peas, kale, cauliflower, roasted squash) to make this pasta a bit heartier. Swap kale or arugula for part or all of the spinach if you like. Use goat cheese in place of cream cheese.
To make this recipe vegetarian, omit the chicken and make sure to choose a parmesan cheese made without rennet.
If your sauce is too thick, add an extra splash of pasta water, milk, cream, or chicken stock to thin it out. If sauce is too thin, let it simmer an additional 2-3 minutes until thickened.
For a lightened-up twist, swap our favorite Magic Cauliflower Cream for the flour and milk in this recipe!
Keywords: alfredo, meal prep, pasta sauce