Kickin' Buffalo Chicken Pasta

On the menu tonight was Buffalo Chicken Pasta, inspired here. I made a few minor adjustments, outlined below.

Ingredients:
-1lb of boneless, skinless chicken breast
-pepper to taste
-2 cups chicken stock
-8oz cream cheese (I used low-fat)
-1lb pasta (I used small shells)
-1/4 cup hot sauce (Frank's Red Hot works well)
-1 cup ranch dressing ***

1. Season chicken breasts with pepper. Place in skillet. Add chicken stock, bring to boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes (until chicken is cooked through). Remove chicken. Reserve 1/2 cup of stock for sauce.

2. Begin the water for the pasta. Cook pasta based on package directions.

3. In a medium saucepan, combine cream cheese (easier if you add spoonfuls or cubes...melts quicker than a big hunk), hot sauce and reserved chicken stock. Cook over medium-low heat until cream cheese is completely melted. I actually used a whisk after a few minutes to help the process along a little (I'm not patient).

4. While sauce is cooking, shred or cube chicken. I cubed ours and it turned out fine.

5. Add ranch dressing to sauce. ***I have a container of ranch dressing mix...so I can make as much or as little as I want, anytime. Instead of using prepared ranch dressing, I used the amount of mix for 1 cup of dressing (1.5 tbsp), 1/2 cup skim milk and 1/2 cup light sour cream. The sour cream helped to give it a little kick.***

6. Add chicken to sauce/dressing. Stir to coat chicken. I allowed it to warm on low for about 3-5 minutes.

7. Combine sauce with drained pasta. Stir to coat and serve.

Using 1/4 cup hot sauce, mine turned out warm, but not eye-watering or mouth burning. It definitely had a kick. Anything more and I don't think Abby would have enjoyed it. As is, it was perfect and she ate everything in her bowl. Of course, she did drink quite a bit of lemonade along the way.

I'm not a huge sauce fan. When I make spaghetti, I usually give myself just enough to coat the noodles. Mike and Abby prefer lots and lots of sauce. As written above, this recipe makes a little more sauce than just coating 1lb of small shells. They were fine and didn't even mention it. But, if you prefer your pasta really wet, I'd make less pasta instead of trying to tweak the portions of sauce.

Mike joked that the only thing missing was celery. I strongly dislike celery...I can't emphasize 'strongly' enough. But, I can see how it could be a nice addition. If you like celery, I would recommend adding chopped celery to the chicken stock while you are cooking the chicken. Obviously, you'd want to strain it from the stock after the chicken is cooked and add it (with the chicken) to the sauce at the end.

I was really pleased with how well this turned out. Trying to think ahead, I may make a larger batch of sauce next time and freeze some of it to have later on.

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