A Simple Recipe Full of Complex Flavors
Creamy chicken pasta was my first ever favorite food. I didn’t realize at first. In fact, it probably took me until I was around ten years old to put it into words.
It was my incredibly busy single mother’s way of providing us with a hearty, home-cooked meal while sticking to her bustling schedule.
Her recipe was about as basic as it comes…plain chicken, stock, cream, plain flour for thickening, and salt.
Growing up working in kitchens and eventually becoming a chef myself, I made revisions to this familial classic as my pallet improved and I learned more about cooking.
What we have here today is the product of those revisions: creamy white wine and mustard chicken pasta.
Is it finished? No, I don’t believe it is. It’s the kind of dish that in its simplest form is a sort of blank canvas.
So openly do the flavors welcome experimentation, I don’t believe I’ll ever be finished with this recipe, but this is where it stands today.
What Chicken Should You Use for This Creamy Pasta Dish?
Thick, boneless chicken breast is the best part of the bird for the occasion.
You can use the same general principles of this recipe for cooking whole or butterflied chicken breasts, but I prefer to cut the chicken into generous chunks and mix them in with the sauce and pasta as though it were a curry.
What Pasta Is Best for This Creamy Delight?
I’ve chosen spaghetti for this creamy chicken recipe because it facilitates good sauce coverage and it cooks incredibly quickly, but it really doesn’t matter.
I change the pasta type and shape up depending on what kind of mood I’m in. Feel free to use whole grain or whole wheat pasta if that better suits your dietary needs.
Time to Pick a White Wine
Here’s the really exciting part. Picking your wine! I’ve often said, the only thing more pleasant than a nice glass of wine is eating it in an exquisitely prepared meal.
Wine can be a very elitist subject. Sure, cheap, bad wine won’t taste as good in the food, but in the spirit of bringing flavors to the masses, I’ll suggest using any white wine you can get your hands on.
It will still taste unbelievable. One thing I will say before we continue is to avoid cooking wines. They’re nigh on undrinkable on their own, so putting them in your food is a severe misstep.
If you do want to maximize your culinary experience, however, I enjoy using a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. It has a detailed flavor profile that helps to really zhuzh up the wholesome yet bland ingredients such as the cream.
Failing that, a decent chardonnay is always a fantastic full-bodied option that suits creamy chicken to a tee, but opt for an unoaked bottle if possible, as oaky variants tend cook quite bitter.
One last lovely white wine that pairs magnificently with creamy chicken is a dry pinot grigio. It’s a simple wine that prefers to let the chicken and its seasoning come to the forefront.
This isn’t a particularly popular option, but in the absence of white wine, I wholeheartedly encourage you to use a quality apple cider in its stead.
Usually far sweeter than white wine, with an unapologetically brash flavor overall, you may need to make little alterations to the recipe later on, but more on that later.
I know not everyone likes to eat their drinks or even drink at all, so here are some awesome substitutes you can make without sacrificing too much flavor.
White Wine Vinegar
While it is called white wine vinegar and created using it, this vinegar doesn’t actually contain any alcohol, but it does retain similar flavorings, making it an ideal substitute for white wine.
Do remember, though, vinegar is far stronger than wine, so you’ll need to reduce the amount you put in. A splash or two is fine. Any more and you risk curdling the cream and overpowering the other flavors.
A splash of lemon juice is a good option even if you’re sticking to the wine. It adds some lovely natural sweetness and a little tangy kick.
If you’re using it as a substitute for wine, feel free to pour some in more generously. About 1/8th of a cup will do fine.
Using more chicken or vegetable stock with proportional dilution won’t provide the complexity of flavor the wine brings to the table, but it does offer the correct amount of fluids and tastes great.
Which Mustard Should You Use?
I use dijon mustard in this recipe, but a small amount of strong, yellow English mustard will work well too.
If you’re a lover of tang, you could even try a bit of wholegrain.
What Mushrooms Should You Use?
Chestnut mushrooms are preferable for this recipe due to their unique flavor, but you can use button, closed cup, or – if you’re feeling adventurous – shiitake mushrooms.
Cooking the Mushrooms
This is completely optional.
If you’re looking for a quick bite, you can cook the mushrooms in the pan or omit them altogether and this dish is still going to taste amazing, but I like to do a little something special with my mushrooms.
Dressing for the Mushrooms
Fire your oven up and leave it to heat to 200°F. In the meantime pour a tablespoon and a half of dark soy sauce into a small mixing bowl.
Add a pinch of garlic powder, a pinch of onion powder, a sprinkle of ground white pepper, and a teaspoon of agave nectar or golden syrup.
Make sure you give your 200 grams of mushrooms a good wash and peel them if necessary. Next, halve them, then slice the halves into roughly 4mm slices.
Throw them in the mixing bowl and give them a good covering in the soy dressing.
Place them on some parchment paper on a baking tray and place them in the oven until everything else is complete.
Preparing the Chicken and Sauce Base
Make sure there isn’t too much liquid on the surface of the chicken as it will lead to the seasoning you’re about to add falling loose before it cooks in.
Mix a cup of plain flour, with ½ a teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of ground white pepper, ½ teaspoon of garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon of yellow mustard powder, 1 teaspoon of paprika, a sprinkle of rosemary, a sprinkle of marjoram, and a sprinkle of oregano.
Once it’s all evenly mixed, throw in your diced chicken and make sure each side is covered with the blend.
Let the Cooking Commence
Dice a single yellow onion and press your garlic, then heat oil with a high smoke point in a large pan or wok on a medium burner.
When the oil’s up to temperature, you can add your onion. After a minute, add a knob of butter. One minute later, add your chicken in too.
Cook for 5 minutes until the onions start to look translucent but before they begin browning at the edges, making sure the chicken is completely sealed on each side.
Now it’s time to add half a tablespoon of mixed herbs. Let the herbs infuse their flavors for a further minute, stirring often to prevent anything catching.
One of the biggest mistakes people make with garlic is adding it too soon. Garlic burns incredibly fast, and once it does, the flavor becomes quite acrid. To avoid this, I add the pressed garlic in about a minute after the herbs.
Cooking the Pasta
For the best possible results, you need the pasta to be hot and fresh when mixed into the sauce, so check the package recommendations and time accordingly.
You’ll need to bring a large pan of water to the boil before sliding in your 12oz of spaghetti (or other pasta). If the water isn’t hot enough, the starch will start to break down, and you’ll end up with mushy pasta.
The next most important aspect of cooking the pasta is the salt. The idea is to replicate the salt content of the ocean. To achieve this, you’ll need to add 1 whole tablespoon of salt for every pound of pasta and 16 cups of water.
As you’re cooking just less than a pound of pasta, use just over half a teaspoon of salt.
I prefer al dente pasta, meaning it’s neither very hard nor particularly soft, but feel free to cook it to your liking. Once it’s ready, drain it, but resist the urge to rinse it. You’ll be washing off the starchy lining that helps with sauce adhesion.
Cooking the Sauce
The logical thing to do when cooking chicken is to use chicken stock right? Well in this situation, I respectfully disagree.
We’ve already got the chicken juices, so in its place, I prefer to use vegetable stock, as it’s going to add more robust and varied flavors to the meal.
Adding the Wine
With all your base ingredients blending beautifully in the pan, savory aromas should start to fill your kitchen. At this point, it’s time to add the wine.
Leave all your ingredients to simmer in the wine for about three minutes, until the wine has ever so slightly reduced and seems fractionally thicker than it was at first.
Now you can add your veg stock. You don’t need to dilute it in as much hot water as you normally would because it will be spread through the wine as well. 100-150ml will suffice.
Adding the Cream
Now you can pour in half a cup of heavy cream. Stir it in softly until it has fully mingled with the other liquids.
Adding the Mustard
Mustard is a strong ingredient, so feel free to reduce to suit your appetite, but for this recipe I suggest 2 teaspoons of dijon.
Stir it in then have a taste. If you don’t get that light mustardy kick, try stirring in one more teaspoon.
Sprinkle a generous pinch of grated parmesan and a tablespoon of soft brown sugar (unless you used cider) and stir in. You’ll now need to let it all simmer on at medium heat to ensure the chicken cooks through.
You should use a temperature probe to check if the chicken is 75°C internally.
The chicken juices should help your sauce thicken naturally, but if you want it thicker, you can sieve a small amount of plain flour in while stirring, or if you have it, make a cornflour paste.
Make sure to use as little water as possible as you don’t want to dilute the flavor too much. Add the spaghetti, and that’s that!
Pro-Tip – If you feel that you haven’t made enough sauce for the quantity of pasta and chicken you’ve prepared, save some of the pasta water and mix it into the sauce.
The second before you serve your meal up, stir in two pinches of salt. Plate up your portion, sprinkle your crispy baked mushrooms on top, and voila!
Creamy White Wine and Mustard Chicken Pasta
- 1 x Baking Tray with baking parchment
- 2 x Chopping Boards (1 x veg, 1x raw meat)
- 2 x Mixing Bowls (1 x rub, 1 x mushroom marinade)
- 1 x Large Saucepan
- 1 x Large Pan or Wok
- 1 x Colander
- 2 x Sharp Kitchen Knives (1 x veg, 1 x meat)
- 1x Temperature Probe
- 3 thick, boneless chicken breasts (diced to your liking)
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp yellow mustard powder
- 1 pinch rosemary
- 1 pinch marjoram
- 1 pinch oregano (an Italian blend will work fine if you don’t have the individual herbs)
Mushrooms and Dressing
- 200 g chestnut mushrooms
- 1 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 pinch garlic powder
- 1 pinch onion powder
- 1 tsp golden syrup
- 2 tbsp high smoke point oil (vegetable is a good choice)
- 1 knob butter
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 garlic cloves (more or less depending on size)
- 1/2 tbsp mixed herbs
- 1 1/2 cup white wine
- 100 ml vegetable stock
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 1 pinch grated parmesan
- 2 pinches salt
- 12 oz spaghetti
- 3/4 tbsp salt
- (Optional) Chop your mushrooms and prepare the marinade. Coat your mushrooms in the marinade and place in a preheated oven at 200°F.
- Chop your onion, mince your garlic, then mix the flour, herbs and spices for the chicken rub.
- Heat your oil in a large pan, add the onion. Cook for one minute, then add the butter. As it cooks for another minute, coat the chicken in the rub, then add it to the pan. Cook until chicken is sealed.
- Start heating water for the pasta. As soon as it boils, add the salt, then spaghetti.
- Add mixed herbs to your large pan. Cook for a minute, stirring regularly, then add your garlic and cook for a further minute.
- Pour in the white wine and simmer for 3 minutes, then add your 100ml of veg stock and simmer for a further three minutes.
- Pour in half a cup of heavy cream and gently stir in. Simmer for 3 minutes.
- Add your mustard, your sugar, and your parmesan, then simmer for 10 minutes.
- Thicken your sauce if necessary, otherwise add your salt, drain your pasta, and stir it into the sauce.
- Serve up and top with baked mushrooms.