Gluten-Free Chicken and Veggie Alfredo
Before going gluten free, Chicken Alfredo was one of our favorite recipes. We had it at least twice a month. Pasta dishes are always easy on the budget and Alfredo lets you stretch a single chicken breast to feed 3 people. After giving up the gluten, we didn't have it nearly as often since gluten-free pasta costs a lot more than pasta made with semolina flour.
Ever since the new gluten-free labeling law went into effect last summer, major food companies have been coming out with their own gluten-free pasta varieties. Costs have been less than traditional gluten-free brands, and they are easily available at most major grocery stores. Out of the several brands we've tried over the past year, Barilla gluten-free pasta had the best taste and texture.
Due to its availability and affordable price, Barilla was the brand I used to recommend but keep in mind that . . .
most of these name brand products are not certified to be gluten free. They can contain up to 20 ppm of gluten without breaking any labeling laws.
They also can make these gluten-free products on shared equipment with gluten products or they can be processed in the same facility as other products made with gluten. None of that has to be declared on the label. The information about potential cross contamination is completely voluntary.
If you are new to a gluten-free diet, you need to be aware of the fact that quite a few celiacs and those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity cannot handle the amount of gluten allowed in gluten-free products without it setting off an autoimmune response. Although scientific data shows that less than 20 ppm of gluten is safe for most people with celiac disease, it is not safe for everyone.
When Barilla pasta first hit the shelves, we were very excited. Made from rice and corn, it was easier for me to digest than the corn and quinoa pasta we'd been using. The cost was relatively low, especially at Costco, so we started using it more often than we were using the other brand.
However, lately, hubby and I have been reacting to it.
I don't know if there is something different they are doing or if the cross-contamination has just caught up with us, but we are both having severe skin reactions to that brand of gluten-free pasta, so we are no longer using it.
We have gone back to using Ancient Harvest Organic Corn-Quinoa pasta instead. That is what's available locally for us. When I make another online order for the gluten-free flours I use, I'll check out what gluten-free pastas VitaCost is selling. I know they have a corn pasta I want to try, but for now, the quinoa pasta is fine since it's certified to be gluten free (less than 10 ppm) and we're only using it occasionally.
For Alfredo, Fettucine pasta is traditional, but you can use any type of gluten-free pasta you have. I've used macaroni, corkscrew pasta, Fettucine (when I can find it), and spaghetti.
How to Make Chicken Alfredo with Vegetables
At the last boys home I worked for, I always made Chicken Alfredo with broccoli tossed in and, sometimes, cauliflower. The boys really liked it that way, but the last time I made Alfredo for us, I decided to do something different. I used the traditional low-carb Alfredo sauce that we enjoy, with a few budget tweaks, but tossed in some mixed vegetables and sliced mushrooms instead of broccoli.
I have also used slightly steamed frozen stir-fry veggies, well-drained, as well. Feel free to use whatever veggies you have on hand.
The following recipe uses cream cheese, milk, and cornstarch as the base. We have been buying our cream cheese at Costco lately since it's quite a bit cheaper than we can get Philadelphia brand cream cheese at the supermarket, but it does have xanthan gum in it. Since some brands of xanthan gum are made from wheat starch, I'm going to have to watch myself closely from now on whenever I have cream cheese.
I've been violently reacting to Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix, so I do know that some manufacturers are using xanthan gum made from wheat starch.
I cooked the veggies with the pasta and then drained them both together, but you could separate the veggies from the pasta if you'd rather do it that way. I've also been using Kraft dried parmesan cheese lately since it's shelf stable, but the fresh Parmesan works well in this too.
If you're not gluten free, just use regular pasta.
Easy Chicken Alfredo with Vegetables
Serves 2 to 4
- 1 or 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut in bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- couple tablespoons of water
- 4 to 6 ounces gluten-free pasta, drained
- 1 to 2 cups vegetables, cooked and drained
- 1/4 cup butter, divided
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 8-ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup dried Parmesan cheese
Early in the day, cut up your chicken into strips or cubes and place it in a small bowl. For the two of us, I usually use one fresh chicken breast half. That makes enough for 3 people, so we always have leftovers. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with baking soda and a little bit of water. That will tenderize the chicken breast. If you're watching your sodium intake, use sodium-free baking soda or just skip this step.
When you're ready to cook dinner, cook your pasta and vegetables together in a large pot of boiling water. Be careful that you don't overcook the pasta. Gluten-free pasta is fragile. It will begin to break up and fall apart if you overcook it. It will never get as soft as wheat pasta does. Cooking gluten-free pasta is a trial-and-error experience, but you can cook it much longer than the box suggests. I usually go by taste.
When done to your liking, drain well and set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter until melted. Add chicken and stir-fry until cooked through. While the chicken is cooking, combine the milk and cornstarch together and set aside. Once the chicken is lightly browned, remove it to a bowl or a platter.
In the skillet, add 2 more tablespoons of butter and heat to melt. Add the chunked cream cheese all at once and squish the chunks down slightly with a wooden spoon to help them melt faster. You can scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan while the cheese is melting to give the sauce extra flavor.
After the cheese is partially melted, stir in the milk mixture and continue stirring until it all thickens and bubbles. The cream cheese will continue to melt as the mixture heats up.
Once the sauce begins to simmer, add the Parmesan and continue to stir until the sauce is smooth. Lower the heat. Dried Parmesan will thicken the sauce even more, so you can add a little more milk if you like. Add the chicken to the sauce and continue cooking and stirring for another few minutes. If you cooked the vegetables separately from the pasta, you can also add them to the sauce at the end to heat them up.
Place the pasta-vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Pour the Alfredo sauce over the pasta and carefully stir to keep the pasta from breaking up. Serve immediately topped with additional cheese if you like.