Broccoli Rabe Chicken Pasta with Bacon Fennel Cream Sauce
1. Boil the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta and set it aside. Rinse the pot.
2. Bring water to boil again in the same pot that you used for the pasta. Add the broccoli rabe and boil it for about five minutes or until the stems are crisp-tender Drain and set the broccoli rabe aside.
3. Cook the bacon in a large 10-inch pan until it starts to render its fat but before it turns crispy. Add the fennel and garlic and stir to coat them in the bacon fat. Cover the pan and cook the fennel for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender. Add two tablespoons of the chopped and stir to combine. Leave enough bacon fat to coat the bottom of the pan and transfer the bacon and fennel to a blender or food processor. While the blender is running add up to a ½ cup of water to thin the puree. You want it very smooth. Set the puree aside.
4. In the same skillet, melt one tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Place the chicken breasts in the pan and cook them on one side for five to six minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook it on the other side for another 4 to 5 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165°F. Transfer the chicken to a clean plate.
5. In the same skillet, sauté the boiled broccoli rabe for five minutes. You want to cook off the excess moisture that the broccoli absorbed when it was boiled. Transfer the broccoli rabe to a clean plate.
6. In the same skillet, melt three tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the top of the butter and stir to combine. Cook the flour and butter for a minute or so. Using a whisk, slowly add the milk and cream and whisk continuously to create a smooth sauce. Adjust the heat so that the sauce does not boil, but instead gently simmers. Cook the sauce for a few minutes or until it is thick enough to coat the back of spoon. While the sauce cooks, cut the chicken breasts and broccoli rabe into bite-sized pieces.
7. Add the fennel puree to the sauce and stir to combine. Add the salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir to coat it in the sauce. Add the chicken and broccoli rabe and stir to combine. Garnish with two tablespoons of chopped fennel fronds and serve.
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