When I was a kid, chicken cordon bleu was one of those meals that always felt incredibly fancy. The dish, which literally means "blue ribbon chicken," is typically made by pounding a chicken breast until it's very thin before layering it with a slice of ham and (often Swiss) cheese. The chicken is then rolled, breaded and pan-fried in such a way that when an eager diner cuts into it, a spiral "ribbon" of cheese and ham is on display.
While the presentation is a big draw, the resulting flavor is unbeatable. You've got the salty umami from the ham, a little creaminess and funkiness from the cheese, moist chicken breast and some crispy crunch from the breading.
But here's the thing — if chicken cordon bleu as-is is close to heavenly, chicken cordon bleu pasta is truly divine. It has all the trademark ingredients, including a crispy breadcrumb topping. However, we really amp up the creaminess with a cheese sauce made with both melty provolone and Swiss. For a little green, I go for simple parsley, but this recipe would work with hearty spinach or kale, peppery arugula or even a generous handful of sweet peas.
This pasta comes together in under an hour, making it an ideal weeknight decadence.
Want more great food writing and recipes? Subscribe to "The Bite," Salon Food's newsletter.
Recipe: Impossibly Creamy Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta
Serves 4 to 6
- 16 ounces of pasta of your choice
- 1/2 cup of Panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 boneless chicken breasts
- 4 thin slices of smoked ham, sliced into 1/4-inch ribbons
- 1/4 cup of grated provolone cheese
- 1/4 cup of grated Swiss cheese
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 3 teaspoons of flour
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup of heavy cream of half and half
- 2 tablespoons of dry white wine
- Handful of parsley
1. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente and drain, reserving at least 3/4 cup of pasta water.
2. Pound your chicken breasts to an even 1/4-inch thickness, then slice into 1-inch cubes. Pat dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper. Using 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sauté the cubes in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked through and slightly browning. Remove the chicken cubes from the skillet and set aside.
3. In the same skillet, add the garlic and smoked ham, sautéing over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant and the ham is slightly browned.
4. Add the white wine to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and really scrape the bottom of the pan to ensure that any browned bits of flavor are eventually incorporated into the sauce. Once the wine has reduced by half, add the butter and whisk in the flour. A loose paste should form.
5. Add the heavy cream or half and half to the skillet, whisking constantly, followed by the grated cheese. Continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and completely cohesive. Add the pasta to the mixture. Add the reserved pasta water a tablespoon at a time until the sauce completely coats the pasta.
6. Add the chicken back to the pasta.
7. In a small pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the Panko bread crumbs and slowly toast until brown, moving with a wooden spoon constantly. This should take about 3 minutes in total. Season with salt and pepper
8. Divide the chicken cordon bleu pasta among individual bowls, garnishing with the toasted bread crumbs and parsley.
More of our favorite chicken dinners: