Like Chili’s Cajun Chicken Pasta? Here’s how to make it lighter

Knocking off restaurant recipes for the home cook is no small feat.

Stephanie Manley, the Houston blogger behind, is one recipe developer working in that space, and another is Marlene Koch, the frequent QVC host and best-selling cookbook author.

In her new book, Eat What You Love: Quick & Easy: Great Recipes Low in Sugar, Fat and Calories (Running Press, $27), she includes several restaurant-inspired dishes that are a little healthier for you, like this spin on the Cajun chicken pasta at Chili’s.

Koch is a registered dietitian, so I'll trust her that nonfat half and half is OK to consume. In my kitchen, I’d opt to use regular half and half, even with the extra calories and fat. (Half and half, by definition, is milk with cream. The nonfat version is quite a bit more complicated to process and have the same viscosity.)

Chili’s-Style Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta

1 3/4 cups dry penne pasta

1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, cut in half

4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (about 1 lb.)

4 tsp. Cajun seasoning

2 tsp. butter

1/2 cup nonfat half-and-half

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup low-fat milk

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. lemon zest

3/4 cup chopped tomatoes

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions, adding the green beans during the final 3 minutes of cooking; drain, and set aside. While pasta is cooking, gently pound breasts to 1/4-inch thickness and sprinkle both sides with Cajun seasoning.

Add the butter to a large nonstick skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown well on both sides (about 2 minutes per side). Add 1 tablespoon water to pan, cover, and cook for 1 minute. Remove lid, and cook chicken until done. Transfer to a cutting board and cover.

In a small bowl, whisk together the half-and-half and cornstarch until smooth. Add mixture to pan, and place over medium heat. Stir in next 5 ingredients (milk through lemon zest) and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until sauce thickens.

Add pasta and beans and continue to cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until mixture is hot and coated. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates; slice chicken breasts and place on top. Top chicken with tomatoes and Parmesan.

From “Eat What You Love: Quick & Easy: Great Recipes Low in Sugar, Fat and Calories” by Marlene Koch (Running Press, $27)

Yield: Four servings