This sauce is perfect over chicken, sturdy fish like salmon, or cuts of beef with pasta, rice, potatoes, and more. Add an optional handful of raw spinach and/or mushrooms in the last five minutes of cooking for a veggie twist.
Categories: Sauce, Easy Dinner Ideas, Meal Prep 101, Pasta Dish
I’ve discovered that a nice, quick garlic sauce can be a cook’s best friend when short on time or ingredients or both. It pulls together the meat with the starch, or the veggies with the meat, and it makes a plain dish pop. We like a lot of garlic around here, and luckily, there are a lot of different ways to get your garlic: fresh heads, minced in a jar (our favorite), garlic powder, garlic Better Than Bouillon seasoning paste (love this too), garlic salt (it’s really salty, but it has its moments), dried garlic, and everything in between. The beautiful thing about a robust garlic sauce is that it can carry a bland meat or leftover veggie dish that just didn’t turn out the way you had hoped or planned for, too.
I’ve included everything here to make an easy chicken and pasta dinner that gets on the table in about 35 minutes, but the hero is definitely the garlic sauce.
Make the garlic sauce
My recipe isn’t dairy-free, but you may be able to switch out some of these ingredients to make a sauce that works for your nutritional needs.
Recipe for Universal Garlic Sauce:
- 1.5 c heavy cream
- 1 c whole or 2% milk
- ½ stick of butter or 4 T of margarine
Any combination of whatever garlic you have in the house, but in a perfect world:
- 1 T of garlic powder
- 1 t of garlic salt
- 1 t of Better Than Bouillon garlic paste
- 1 heaping T of minced garlic
- 3 chopped cloves of fresh garlic
- ½ t of ground black pepper
Optional: In the last five minutes of cooking, handful of spinach leaves, handful of washed, chopped mushrooms, or 3 T of drained, diced canned or fresh tomatoes
Garlic butter dredge:
- 2 T butter or oil
- 1 t of garlic powder
- ½ t of garlic salt
Pull out a medium-sized pot, nonstick works best, and set it on medium heat. Add all but the optional ingredients to the pot.
Heat for 15 minutes, stirring often. It will reduce and thicken. Taste test: At this stage I added an extra dash of garlic powder (more garlic can never hurt, can it?). Reduce heat to low and continue stirring regularly for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat. The sauce should easily coat a wooden spoon. Keep on low heat; it will thicken as it stands.
Grill the chicken
Pat dry your chicken breasts and split each breast into thirds: cut off the “skinny/pointy” end and take the remaining thick chunk and carefully filet this piece lengthwise. Smaller pieces cook faster and take on more flavor. Set aside.
Prep your grill or preheat a cast iron pan to med high heat. Add the ingredients for the chicken dredge to a microwave-safe bowl. Melt for 20 seconds. Stir. Dredge the chicken cutlets on each side through the garlic butter. Add to the hot cast iron pan or lay on the grill grates with plenty of room between each cutlet. Cook for FOUR MINUTES without moving the chicken pieces. Set a timer. If you go to turn the chicken and it sticks, give it another one or two minutes. It should turn easily when the side is seared. Turn and cook for an additional four minutes. Use a meat thermometer – done chicken should be 165F. Or cut into a piece. If no pink remains, it’s done.
Prepare the pasta
While your chicken is cooking, prep your starch. We used leftover tagliatelle, a perfect small serving for each of us that was leftover in my fridge. Cooked pasta doesn’t last safely more than three or four days in the fridge, but we got lucky. If you don’t have any that’s ready to eat, don’t fret. Choose whatever pasta you have on hand: spaghetti, fettucine, angel hair, bow ties, even elbows or spirals. Make it an insane meal and get out the frozen ravioli you’ve been saving! Cook per the directions on the package. Drain into a colander (use those potholders). No pasta? Microwave a potato or get out the instant rice. You want something easy, fast, and tasty tonight but that is still homemade and saves some money.
Put it all together
Portion the steaming pasta onto plates using a slotted spoon or spaghetti server. Plate the chicken cutlets next to or on top of the pasta (or smashed potato or rice). Stir the garlic sauce; it should have gotten a bit thicker while standing but is still nice and hot. Spoon the garlic sauce generously over the pasta and chicken. Turn some fresh ground pepper over everything if you have it handy.
If you have some bagged salad, add to the side of the plate or in separate bowls, with a dash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, cucumber and tomato. I love butter lettuce that you can find at Aldi. It’s soft but sturdy, tasty and handles all kinds of dressing. I love it because it’s not bitter at all.
Enjoy and use a rubber spatula to get every bit of sauce into a leftovers container.