This dish was inspired by my pantry. I’ll admit, there’s enough food stocked in our pantry to last a good long while through an apocalypse. I was in there the other day and saw a bag of sun-dried tomatoes that had been sitting around for a while and thought, “I should use those.” So I looked on the interwebs for a recipe and found a simple one for which I already had all of the ingredients. Chicken sautéed in a sun-dried tomato mozzarella cream sauce with pasta. Boom. What’s not to love?
Now, the recipe did call for half and half, which I just…I just can’t use in a recipe. I typically try to cook healthily, so I almost always reject recipes that call for half and half. If someone else cooks something with half and half or cream or we’re out at a restaurant, I’ll eat it. And I’ll surely enjoy it! But I very rarely, if ever, put it in food myself. We did have whole milk, so I used that and I thought it made the sauce nice and creamy. For the pasta itself, I used whole wheat rotini, because that’s what I had on hand. I think it would have been pretty with penne also, but let’s face it, they taste the same.
The recipe I found calls for sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, but mine were the kind in the bag, sans oil. So the night before I was going to make it, I soaked my tomatoes in olive oil and threw in some cloves of garlic because it seemed like the right thing to do. I’m sure you could use non-oiled sun-dried tomatoes without soaking them if that’s what you have. It’s your kitchen, do what you want.
This is a delicious Italian dish that would be great for a weeknight meal. It doesn’t take much prep or planning, and it comes together pretty quickly. My challenge these days is to satisfy a toddler who is pretty typically picky at times. He really will eat a lot of different foods, (he loves Indian food!) but he’s stubborn (I have NO idea where he gets that!), so if he has it in his mind that he is not going to eat something, it’s not going to happen. Well here’s evidence that this dish satisfied even the pickiest eater in our household! It’s garlicky, creamy, cheesy and very comforting. Tim added some crushed red pepper flakes to spice it up a little bit, which is totally optional.
Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Pasta with Chicken
Adapted from Julia’s Album
- 1/2 of an onion, chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small jar (3-4 oz) sliced sun-dried tomatoes in oil, or use 3-4 oz sun-dried tomatoes in a bag without oil
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
- about a teaspoon of paprika
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, plus more for serving
- 6-8 oz whole wheat pasta, whatever shape you like
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- about 1/4 cup reserved cooked pasta water (or more if needed)
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional, add more to taste)
- salt and pepper
Coat the chicken pieces with paprika and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Put water on to boil for your pasta.
Drain the sun-dried tomatoes from the oil, reserving two tablespoons of the drained oil. Heat a large nonstick skillet on high medium high heat, and add the reserved oil (or 2 Tablespoons of regular olive oil if you are using oil-less sun-dried tomatoes). Sauté the onion and sun-dried tomatoes for 3-4 minutes, until onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Remove from the pan, leaving any remaining oil. Add the chicken and cook for 5-7 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink.
Season your pasta water with a teaspoon of salt and cook your pasta according to package instructions. When you drain the pasta, remember to reserve some cooked pasta water.
Add the sun-dried tomatoes back to the skillet with chicken. Add the milk and cheese, and stir well to incorporate. Bring to a gentle boil then immediately reduce to simmer and cook, constantly stirring, until all cheese melts and creamy sauce forms. This only takes a couple of minutes. Add cooked pasta to the skillet with the creamy sauce, and stir to combine. Add 1 tablespoon of basil and red pepper flakes if desired. Stir to combine.
Add about 1/4 cup reserved cooked pasta water and stir. If it is still too thick, add a little bit more pasta water. This really makes the sauce come together and have the right consistency and creaminess. Season with salt, pepper, and additional red pepper flakes if needed. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes for flavors to get real friendly.