Ever since I've moved to Maui, I have had nonstop cravings for my favorite restaurant meals. But I'm not even talking about restaurants that I went to all the time... I mean any restaurant that I went to in Southern California that we don't have here- I feel like I NEED to have. I'll admit it, I suffer from a bad case of wanting what I can't have. Even though I have a ton of amazing restaurants right down the street from me, I had this strange craving for the Penne Rustica I used to order years ago at Macaroni Grill. So since flying 2,000 miles was out of the question, I resorted to the next best thing...Cooking it myself and boy am I glad I did!
Instead of following the copycat recipe that is all over the internet, I decided to just whip up my own recipe with the flavors from the dish I liked the most. I wanted to omit the heavy pancetta, rosemary, and marsala flavors that are in original recipe and add in a little bit more spice of cayenne pepper and the light, crisp flavor of white wine instead. It turned out even better than I remembered. Finally teaching me my lesson that's there no reason to be nostalgic when I can cook up the same recipes myself-plus save some money and score on leftovers!
As much as I wish I could say I whip up all my dinners without following a recipe, that's normally not the case. Most of my dishes begin from a trusted family or chef recipe and tweaked over time until I make it my own. But this time, I really just threw things in while I went...crossing my fingers the whole time and promising Chad we would order take out if it was a total flop ;) But luckily it was the exact opposite....a total hit!!!
I started out with the basics. Sautéing lots of garlic and shallots in olive oil and butter. Then added in shrimp that had been generously seasoned with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Once the shrimp were cooked, I deglazed the pan with white wine and let it reduce a bit. Next I added in precooked chicken that had already been spiced up with my dear friend Cayenne, roasted red peppers, and cream and let all the flavors meld together and thicken slightly. Then, because no pasta dish should be without it, I stirred in a heaping amount of parmesan cheese.
That got tossed together with the penne and placed in a large casserole dish. And since I'm a fan of a cheesy golden brown topping(who's not??), I sprinkled on some grated mozzarella, parmesan, and paprika before baking in the oven.
It only needed a couple of minutes in a hot stove because it was already cooked through- so keep an eye on it! In no time, you are rewarded with a crispy, golden, piping hot casserole that anyone would love. It has a little bit of everything: two different types of proteins, smokiness from the roasted red peppers, heat from the cayenne, and a cheesy cream sauce.
Now how picture perfect does this dish look? And I didn't even have to fly home for it, although I wouldn't mind seeing my pups and fam :)
1/2 lb of boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb penne pasta
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup of roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup of white wine
2 cups cream
1 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated mozzarella
salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper
Season both the chicken breasts and shrimp generously with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to cook pasta. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large pan over medium high heat, heat one tablespoon of the butter and olive oil and add chicken until cooked through. Remove chicken to a plate, add remaining tablespoon of butter and olive oil to pan and saute garlic and shallot until translucent. Add shrimp and cook until just pink, then turn heat down to low.
Add white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping off any brown bits on the pan, and let reduce a bit. Next add back in the cooked chicken, the roasted red peppers, and the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium low, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in 1 cup of the parmesan cheese. Add cooked and drained penne to the pan and mix thourougly. Pour mixture into a lightly buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese, grated mozzarella, and paprika on top. Place uncovered casserole in oven for a couple of minutes, until topping is golden brown.