Everything’s Better with Bacon, Tortellini, and Spinach

DSC_0083I love tortellini, so I am always looking for new ways to cook it.  Specifically, there’s a type of cheese and spinach tortellini (by Barilla) that I think is exceptionally delicious. I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and I knew I wanted to try it. (They just so happened to use the kind of tortellini I love, which I would have done anyway.) I asked Tim if he thought we should add chicken to it, and of course he commented that adding more meat to something was never a bad thing, so I did. And it was amazing! This was definitely a success, and a way of preparing tortellini that I had never thought of before. It’s not difficult, but the lemon really such a nice accent to the sauce and keeps it from feeling too heavy and rich. I mean afterall, there is bacon and bacon grease used in the recipe. I normally try to cook healthily, but we’re just going to have to look the other way a little on this one. I did use skim milk in the sauce and the spinach is a little bit of a saving grace, but let’s not kid ourselves. What this dish lacks in healthiness, it makes up for with deliciousness.

Tortellini with Bacon and Spinach

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Ingredients:

  • about 3/4 of a 12 oz bag of Barilla Cheese & Spinach Tortellini
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 -6 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp basil (dried)
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes or more to taste
  • 1 medium lemon
  • about 2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add chicken, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Add onion and cook about another 4-5 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and onions are tender.  Remove from skillet and set aside.

Put a large pot of water on to boil and cook tortellini according to package instructions. When it’s cooked, drain and return to the pot.

In the same skillet you used for the chicken, cook bacon pieces over medium high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set on a paper towel to soak up the grease. Carefully remove all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the pan.  Add garlic and cook approximately a minute, then add flour and cook for an additional minute, stirring with a whisk.  Slowly pour in milk and whisk until smooth. Add basil, red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper and bring the sauce to a simmer.  While that is cooking, zest and juice the lemon.  Add about two teaspoons of zest and one tablespoon of juice to the sauce.  Continue to whisk the sauce until it is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.

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Add the chicken, sauce, and half of the bacon to the tortellini in the large pot.  Stir in the spinach and about 1/2 of the mozzarella.  Pour pasta mixture into a baking dish (1.5 quart, 2 quart, 8 x 8 or 9 x 9), and cover with remaining bacon and cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.

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Enjoy!

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