Chicken and pasta are a great pair, but how about adding some Mexican flavors with a creamy chipotle sauce and a hint of paprika? This recipe blends Mexican and American flavors by combining the classic New Yorker "riggies" with flavorful Mexican spices and condiments. It's a match made in heaven!
For this recipe, I am bringing you a taste of the dishes that are popular where I live and adding a few Mexican flavors. Riggies refers to the rigatoni pasta in this chicken and pasta dish. The original recipe for chicken riggies comes from the upstate New York area, but its popularity has spread fast. I enjoyed my first, piping hot, creamy and spicy dish of chicken riggies years ago at a local restaurant.
It reminded me of a grown up version of a really creamy mac n’ cheese, but with tasty chicken bites and a good kick from the crushed red pepper flakes. For today's recipe, I really toned down the heat compared to the way I would normally prepare it. I do love my spicy foods! I also added smoky chipotles and paprika to the sauce. I just love the smoky notes in any cream or cheese sauce. And don't worry about it being too heavy, I added 1% milk instead of heavy cream. The end result was smooth, creamy, smoky and just spicy enough.
In a small sauce pan, add 1/4 cup olive oil, red pepper flakes and 4 cloves of sliced garlic. Heat to medium-low until the garlic starts to turn a light golden color. Add the oregano, basil and bay leaf, and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes. Cook your pasta according to package. Reduce cooking time by a few minutes, drain and drizzle with olive oil until ready to use.
While the the oil is steeping, season the chicken pieces lightly with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Preheat 3 tablespoons of olive oil to medium for a few minutes. Cook the chicken for about 8 to 10 minutes, turning as needed or until nicely browned on both sides. Remove from pan and transfer onto a plate.
In that same pan, add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil and keep heat at medium. Add the onions, garlic, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, pepperoncini peppers, oregano, basil and pinch of red pepper flakes. Season with a pinch of pepper and salt to taste. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the flour and cook for another minute. Lower the heat until you blend the sauce.
Transfer the chile/garlic oil from saucepan to blender. Add the chipotles,tomato sauce, paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Blend on high until smooth and completely emulsified, set aside. Raise the heat back up to medium, whisk milk into saucepan along with all of the tomato/chile oil from blender. Stir well to combine. Add 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup pepper jack, spinach and chicken. Stir well and fold in the cooked pasta. Reduce heat to a low simmer and let cook for 10 minutes. Garnish top of pasta with shredded Parmesan and pepper jack cheese, cover with lid for a few minutes just until cheese melts. Garnish with green onions.
If you don't want to use flour, whisk in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to cold milk until smooth.