An Italian-inspired dish with lots of vegetables! Sliced chicken breast and bacon are tossed with veggies and penne pasta in a delicious, creamy, homemade Alfredo sauce made with Parmesan cheese.
* Use thin chicken breasts or chicken tenderloin meat. Either cut of meat will work.
* Use shredded Parmesan cheese. Do not use grated Parmesan cheese, use the shredded kind. What I usually do is buy a block of Parmesan cheese and shred it myself. Freshly shredding the cheese results in the best sauce texture. You can, however, use store-bought pre-shredded Parmesan cheese. Just do not use the grated kind.
* You can use cooked spinach, frozen spinach, or fresh spinach. All will work.
* Make this chicken pasta gluten free. All you need to do is use gluten-free brown-rice penne pasta instead of regular penne. You can also use gluten-free quinoa pasta or lentil pasta.
* If using gluten free pasta, rinse it with cold water after cooking to prevent it from getting mushy.
* If using regular, wheat pasta, do not rinse it with cold water. Rinsing pasta with cold water removes the starch which helps absorb the sauce.
* You can store this chicken pasta refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.
* Reheat the pasta gently on stove top on medium-low heat, without simmering.
* Keep in mind that reheating the cream sauce on high heat will cause the cream to separate.
* I do not recommend freezing this dish. If you freeze it, the creamy sauce might not have the same texture when you reheat it. It might separate.
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 lb chicken (chicken breasts or tenderloins)
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (thyme, oregano, basil – combined)
• 5 tomatoes (medium, chopped in large cubes)
• 1 cup spinach cooked
• 5 garlic cloves minced
• 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes , crushed
• 6 bacon strips , COOKED, DRAINED OF FAT, AND CHOPPED
• 1 1/3 cups half and half
• 1 1/3 cups Parmesan cheese , shredded
• 10 oz penne pasta (for gluten-free version, use gluten-free brown-rice penne)
• 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese , shredded, for serving
WHAT IS HALF AND HALF? Substitute 1/2 cup of milk + 1/2 cup of heavy cream for 1 cup of half-and-half.
1 In a large skillet, on high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until hot. Add chicken and cook on one side on high heat for 1 minute. While it cooks, sprinkle the uncooked sides of the chicken with paprika and Italian seasoning. Flip the chicken over, and cook on the other side for 1 minute on high heat. Reduce heat to medium, flip chicken over again and cook, covered, for several minutes until no longer pink in the center. Remove chicken from the pan and keep chicken warm.
2 To the same pan (but without chicken), add chopped tomatoes, spinach, garlic, crushed red pepper, 1/3 of the chicken (sliced into small strips) and half the bacon (already cooked and drained of fat). Mix everything.
3 Add half and half and bring to boil. Only after half and half starts boiling, add shredded Parmesan cheese – immediately reduce to simmer and stir, while simmering, until the cheese melts and makes the sauce creamy, only about 1 minute (at most 2 minutes). Then, immediately remove from heat. Season with more crushed red pepper and salt, if needed.
4 In the mean time bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta and cook it according to instructions. Drain the pasta, rinse with cold water and drain again.
5 Add pasta to the skillet with the sauce. Add remaining half of bacon (cooked and drained of fat). Season with more salt if necessary. Slice the remaining 2/3 of chicken into thin strips. To serve, top the pasta with chicken strips and shredded Parmesan cheese