Coming back home from vacation is always both a bit sad (that vacation’s over) and a bit happy (to be back home). I always look forward to being able to cook in my kitchen again. Not that I don’t enjoy eating out or anything, but cooking is so relaxing that it’s hard for me to go without it for a long time. Are those the words of an addict?

Of course, the first few nights back usually mean staring into an empty fridge and a freezer with frozen chicken pieces (courtesy of Brian during his move). Luckily for us, we had our veggie box pick-up pretty soon after we got back. A quick stop to Trader Joe’s to grab some dried pasta and we were able to improvise a decent dinner. By the way, Trader Joe’s started carrying a new kind of pasta – Bucati!! For some odd reason, I really like hollow pastas.

1/2 lb bucati (or any long pasta)
1 head broccoli, chopped into bite-size pieces (peel the tough skin from the stem and chop that too)
1-2 pieces of chicken breast, chopped into bite-size chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup milk
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

In a large pot of salted, boiling water, blanch the broccoli stem and florets for 3-4 min until tender. If there are any leaves, throw those in for 1-2 min at the end so they don’t get overcooked. Scoop out the broccoli and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

Cook pasta in same pot of boiling water until al dente. Reserve a few scoops of pasta water. Drain pasta.

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in garlic and onion and saute briefly (don’t burn garlic!!). Add chicken and saute until almost done.

Add milk and reduce until thickened – how thick depends on how you like your pasta sauces. If you accidentally reduce too much, use some of the reserved pasta water to thin out the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Once sauce is of the right thickness, add broccoli and pasta and red pepper flakes, if using. Toss quickly. Readjust seasonings if needed.

Serve immediately.

(Makes 2 servings)