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One of my favorite dishes, despite the fact that is comes from an Italian themed franchise, is the penne rustica from the Macaroni Grill. As a matter of fact, of the half dozen or so times that I’ve been there, I don’t think that I’ve ordered anything else other than a few of their starters.
I remember, several years back, when they first began their huge marketing campaign and the penne rustica was in the forefront as their signature dish. I drank the Kool-Aid and decided to try them out. I usually tend to steer clear of places like the Macaroni Grill and it’s clones because, more often than not, I’ve ended up with a big dissappointing meal; chewy calamari fritti, saw dust chicken, watery marinara, just to name a few. I was pleasantly surprised with this restaurant.
Immediately after having the penne, I set out to replicate it at home. I do this a lot. Just because I want a specific tasty meal, I don’t always want to have to go out to get it. Mind you, in no way can I replicate everything that I’ve had out, but I usually give it a try.
With this dish, I hit the nail on the head. Somewhere, a while ago, I found a copy cat recipe for this on the web; I don’t remember where, but I wrote it down and embellished it a bit, but it is very, very close to what they serve at the Macaroni Grill.
I used smoked chicken breasts, sauteed shrimp, prosciutto, peas, and a creamy sauce. What’s not to love?
1 pound penne rigate pasta
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 small chicken breasts
1/2 cup prosciutto chopped
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 cup appx grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 appx teaspoons paprika
1 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley minced
salt and pepper
For the sauce:
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup marsala wine
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp Grey Poupon Dijon mustard
2 tbsp fresh rosemary minced
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp fresh thyme minced
1/4 tbsp cayenne pepper
salt and white pepper
Prep the herbs and dice the meat.
Cook pasta according to package and drain. Set aside.
Wash and pat dry the chicken breasts. Sprinkle them on both sides with salt and papper. Cook them however you want, grill, saute, bake, whatever. I smoked these using hickory wood. It really adds a lot of flavor.
Then I coarsly chopped the chicken and sauteed the pieces in olive oil to brown them.
When the chicken is done remove the pieces from the pan and set the pan aside. It is going to be used for the sauce.
Salt and pepper the shrimp. Heat a saute pan over medium high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil. When hot, add the shrimp. Saute the shrimp just until they start to turn pink. We don’t want them fully cooked.
When the shrimp are done, remove from the pan and set aside. Put that pan in the sink for whomever is going to wash it.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees-f.
To make the sauce:
Take the pan that the chicken pieces were sauteed in and place over medium heat. Melt the butter, scraping up any bits. Add garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add the marsala and cook for 5 more minutes.
Add the broth and simmer until reduced by 1/3.
Add the heavy cream, cheese, mustard and spices. Salt and pepper to taste. Use only a pinch of the white pepper.
Make a slurry with the cornstarch and milk.
Whisk in the slurry and continue whisking until smooth.
Bring to a simmer and simmer until it thickens. Cover and turn off heat.
Assemble the dish by spraying a 13 by 9 (I think) baking dish with non-stick spray.
Pour in the pasta.
Add the prosciutto, chicken, peas, and shrimp. Mix well.
Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until heated through and the cheese is melted bubbly. The top should just be browning.
Bookmarked the recipe - will make it this week. It's husband's bday week and he gets anything he wants and he want this pasta.
Jaden - Tell your hubby, happy birthday. Please let me know how the dish turns out.
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