This southwestern chicken pasta, also known as summery ingredients tossed with pasta and chipotle cream sauce, is an addition to a roster of similarly-themed dishes. Guacamole, tacos, margaritas, burrito bowls, chipotle-flavored anything… I’ve doubled-down on the southwest-y/Mexican-inspired dishes and I have no regrets.
This installment of “chipotle flavor all the time” saga was originally inspired by a southwestern chicken pasta I had several times at a restaurant called Top of the Hill in Chapel Hill, NC. It’s been several years since I’ve been there and I’m glad I took the time to recreate it when I did before the flavor memory faded – it’s still one of my favorite pasta recipes on this here blog.
It’s full of pasta, chicken, fresh cherry tomatoes, sweet corn – all kinds of fresh flavors. The best part is the chipotle cream sauce. It’s a little smoky with a kick of heat that’s a nice contrast to the tomatoes and corn.
- I used rotini for the pasta which is a corkscrew-shaped, but any short pasta will work like penne, cavatappi, orecchiette, or farfalle.
- There’s also boneless, skinless chicken breasts cooked whole and then cut into bite-sized pieces. To make it really easy, feel free to use shredded rotisserie chicken instead and skip the chicken cooking part.
- The base of the sauce is butter, cream and white cheddar cheese. I’ve also made this pasta with smoked cheddar cheese which is delicious, too.
- The sauce is flavored with chipotle peppers, which are jalapeno peppers that have been smoked. You can buy them canned in adobo sauce which is flavored with all kinds of spices. You can use both to flavor the sauce. Look for it in the Latin foods section at the grocery store.
- Chipotle peppers have a spicy bite, so you can omit the pepper and just use the adobo sauce instead.
- There’s also chopped fresh cilantro in the sauce.
- After the pasta and chipotle sauce are combined I like to add grape tomatoes and corn right at the end. They warm up in the sauce but still maintain their fresh flavor.
4 STEPS TO MAKE THIS CHICKEN PASTA
- First, boil the pasta following package directions.
- While the pasta boils, cook the chicken in a large pan over medium heat until it’s browned and cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
- In the same pan, make the chipotle cream sauce. Melt the butter over medium heat, add the chopped chipotle pepper and adobo sauce. Add the cream and, once it’s warmed through and lightly simmering, add the shredded cheese and cilantro. Stir until the cheese is melted.
- Last step! Bring it all together and stir the cooked pasta into the sauce. Add the tomatoes and corn and stir to combine.
- 8 ounces rotini pasta
For the Chicken
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the Sauce
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 chipotle pepper, finely chopped (see note)
- 3 tablespoons adobo sauce
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese (see note)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 cup frozen corn (see note)
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
- Boil the pasta following package instructions.
- Slice the chicken breasts in half crosswise. Season each with the salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Place the chicken breasts in the pan and cook them for four to five minutes on each side or until they are cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
- Melt the butter in the same pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the chipotle pepper and adobo sauce and stir to combine. Add the cream and, once it’s heated, add the cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Add the cilantro and stir.
- Add the chicken, corn, and tomatoes. Stir to combine and serve.
If you want to make it even easier, use shredded rotisserie chicken and skip cooking the chicken yourself. Just make the rest of the recipe as directed and add the shredded chicken at the end.
Look for chipotles in adobo in the Latin foods section at the grocery store. If you don’t like a lot of spice you might want to reduce or omit the chopped chipotle pepper and just use the adobe sauce.
For an extra smoky flavor, substitute the same amount of smoked cheddar cheese in place of the white.
If you leave the corn out at room temperature while you make the dish it will thaw out by the time you add it. Even if it’s still cold it will warm up quickly in the sauce.
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