I love smokey flavors. Smoked cheeses are the best. There is a brand of applewood smoked mozzarella that I typically have in my cheese draw for having with apple or pear slices. This gave me an idea... one day after having my BBQ Spice-Rubbed chicken breasts on the grill for Labor Day, I was looking for something to do with the one chicken breast leftover--it was a fat one. (Split chicken breasts come packaged four halves to a package, and we are a family of three so there's always one left over). I doctored up this quick recipe so Lisa would have a nice meal when she got home from the office (thank God she work's from home most days).
I put on a pot to boil water for cavatappi--my favorite pasta shape for cheese casseroles since its spiral shape holds cheese sauces so wall. I then shredded the chicken off the breastbones and added it to a saucepan with about 2 cups of my standard crushed tomato sauce that I usually have handy in the fridge. I added 3 or four good dashes of Liquid Smoke to enhance the sauce a bit, along with about 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. I wanted a little bit of heat. I then added a teaspoon of smoked paprika and set the sauce on a low back burner. Finally, I used the 1/2 side of my box grater to grate about 1-1/4 cups of the smoked mozzarella set it aside. The mis en place was completed...
When the pasta was done I drained it in the large colander that I inherited from my Mom. I like to go a bit beyond al dente unless the sauce I'm using is very wet so the pasta doesn't dry out too much when baking. The pasta went into our larger sized Emile Henry lasagna pan. I then took the sauce-chicken mixture and poured it over the pasta and gently tossed until it was evenly distributed. To top it off I spread the shredded cheese over the top. I covered with foil (shiny side down) and then baked it for 35 minutes in a 425 degree, pre-heated oven. (In my old oven, I used to use 375 degrees, so check yours before committing this recipe to a full 35 minutes. )
I let it rest for 5 minutes before serving it to Lucas and Lisa with a tossed salad with some of my late season heirloom tomatoes in it.
Smokey and cheesy. I still could taste the BBQ spices I used on the chicken rub. The dash of Liquid Smoke worked well too, bringing the sauce up a notch. Smokey... What more can you ask for?
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