Chicken, Leek & Pea Pasta With Homemade Bechamel

A low fat, high fiber dinner for a quick weeknight meal!

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Chicken, Leek & Pea Pasta

I was 40 years old before I tried my first leek. It just wasn’t something I grew up eating, or knew how to cook. Then a friend introduced me and I’ve never looked back.  

Leeks have an oniony taste, but are milder and remind me of green onions. Unlike a green onion, however, you do not eat the green part. Instead, only the white and light green parts are eaten, usually sauteed as the base of a dish. (At least as far as I know.)

My recommendation is to poke out the very center of the slices nearest the root. That center can be a little woody/tough, but that might just be me.

When I first made this recipe I was on a special diet to lower my blood pressure. (Turns out its a side effect of the oral chemo I’m on, so I’m off the diet now and just going on blood pressure drugs. Better living through chemicals!)

To make this healthier, I used lentil spaghetti noodles. They don’t taste particularly different from regular noodles, but they are more…toothsome. It seems that no matter how long I cook them, they are al dente. So if that’s your thing, you can increase the fiber and protein in this meal with an easy substitution.

Also, a bag of frozen peas is going to be your best friend. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Bechamel is a class French white sauce, and much like alfredo and ranch dressing, it makes everything better. In order to make this a little healthier, I made the bechamel sauce with skim milk rather than whole milk or heavy cream. If you want to splurge on creaminess, feel free to use whatever milk or cream is in your fridge.

Also, you can grate and add parmigiano reggiano to the bechamel. I have made it with and without, and it’s definitely tastier with the cheese. Still, it was perfectly good without it, and certainly less calories. I tend to grate my parm-reg with a lovely little tool called a Microplane.

If you do not have one, I highly recommend. It’s difficult to grate soft cheese like cheddar with a Microplane, but its wonderful for hard cheese, zesting, and truffles.

Not that I’ve ever cooked with a real truffle. I’ve just heard that.

Mayhap I will find some truffles and use them in an upcoming post!

The last thing I want to mention about this recipe is that if you are a weekend meal prepper, you can do much of the prep in advance. The bechamel will keep in your fridge for a few days, but to be honest, I prefer it fresh. I have stored leftover bechamel and reheated it in the micro, but it’s not as good. That said, there is technically no reason you can’t. The leeks can be chopped and stored in the fridge, and you can bake and cube the chicken and reheat it just before serving. Even the noodles can be cooked and reheated.

This recipe can be easy on your waistline and save time during the weekday grind. It’s easily adaptable.

And remember, you can spork it!

P.S. Try not to cook the peas too long, or they will get wrinkly. Like in my pic above. I really did make that for my dinner. Wrinkles aside, it was delish.

P.P.S. This was adapted from Real Simple’s Orecchiette With Leeks, Peas, and Pecorino.

Chicken, Leek & Pea Pasta With Homemade Bechamel Sauce

A low fat, high fiber dinner you can quickly make on a weeknight!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Keyword: Dinner, Healthy, Pasta
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb spaghetti (lentil, chickpea, whole wheat or other high fiber noodle)
  • 4 chicken breasts chopped into 3/4 inch` cubes
  • 4 leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil divided
  • 1 10 oz bag frozen peas
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp AP Flour
  • 1 cup low fat or skim milk (let it sit at room temperature during prep so it is not too cold)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 oz parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated (optional)

Instructions

  • Fill a large pot with water and set it to boil.
  • Heat a large skillet on medium to medium-high heat and add 2 tbsp of olive oil. While it heats, sprinkle the chopped chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Saute the chicken, letting sit in the pan for at least 1-2 minutes so it browns. Gently loosen the chicken cubes and flip, letting the other side brown. Cook for about 6-8 minutes total. To check for doneness, cut a large cube in half. Remove chicken from heat and set aside in a bowl. Cover to keep warm.
  • Add noodles to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Drain.
  • Meanwhile, add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and saute leeks over medium until browned. They will not require a lot of stirring, which leaves you free to make the bechamel/white sauce. Add the frozen peas just 3-4 minutes before you are ready to serve so they are warmed through but not browned.
  • In a small pot, melt butter over medium heat. Gradually whisk in flour, salt and pepper until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in milk a little at a time and add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 1-2 minutes until thickened. OPTIONAL: Add in the grated parmigiano reggiano cheese for a a cheesier sauce. If you add the cheese, I recommend leaving out the salt until this stage and adjust to taste.
  • Place noodles in bowls and top with the chicken cubes. Spoon bechamel sauce over chicken and noodles. Top with the leek and pea mixture. Enjoy!

Notes

If you meal prep, the chicken can be baked and cubed in advance, then reheated in the microwave or on the stove just before serving. This will cut down on cooking time on a busy weeknight.
The added parmigiano reggiano makes for a creamier, saltier, cheesier sauce, but it is optional if you are watching calories. 
You can use any percent of milk, i.e. whole, 2%, etc. You can also use heavy cream, though you may need to adjust cooking time, temperature and amounts.

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