Saturday, February 7, 2015

Creamy Penne with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Pasta, garlic, basil, what's not to love here? Get your creamy pasta fix here while cutting back on the fat and adding some fiber. I just love it when you can trick your fat cells into singing with delight. This is a dish for a crowd so cut the recipe into half if you don't want a large amount. Or you may make a big batch and have leftovers. Guess what, it even tastes better the next day once the flavors have melded. Mangia! Mangia!

  • ¾ cup *sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, cut into thin strips with kitchen scissors,
  •  Set aside about 2 Tbsp oil from tomatoes for cooking chicken in
  • 2 lbs. chicken breast tenders
  • 2 boxes of Ronzoni Smart Taste penne pasta, but only using 1 full box and 1/2 of the second box, 16 oz. total
  • 1 whole bulb of garlic, separate cloves, peel and press into garlic press
  • fresh Basil, 3/4 cup cut thin with kitchen scissors
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1 pkg., 8 oz. reduced fat Sargento 4 cheese Italian
  • ¼ to ½ tsp. crushed red pepper
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • set aside 1 cup of pasta water before draining pasta
  • Asiago cheese, grated

In a large pot bring salted water to boil for pasta. Meanwhile in a 12 inch nonstick skillet cook chicken tenderloins in oil from sun dried tomatoes on a medium heat lightly coating both sides of chicken with paprika and salt. You will need to cook this in two separate batches only cooking 1 lb at a time.

Now that chicken is cooking as soon as the water comes to a boil add the pasta and stir well. Once it comes to a boil again, cook it for 15 minutes. This is longer than the directions recommend but trust me it works well for this recipe. This is a perfect time to prepare the sun dried tomatoes, garlic and basil while you cook the pasta and chicken.

Remove cooked chicken from heat and place chicken on platter (make sure it is not pink inside and it's fully cooked), then set aside.

Drain pasta when cooked, but make sure you scoop out 1 cup of the water and set it aside before draining pasta.

Once chicken has been cooked you need to add the minced garlic to the skillet. Saute garlic in oil and pan juices for about 3 minutes, adding basil, crushed red pepper, and sun dried tomatoes for the last minute. Add the 1 cup of pasta water that you saved to the skillet and deglaze pan by using a soft spatula gently scraping bits from bottom of the skillet to release the flavors from the pan. Turn off heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan add the milk and cheese and heat over medium heat stirring until cheese is melted. Once sauce is heated and smooth add the deglazed skillet mixture to saucepan. Simmer sauce for 5 min stirring occasionally.

In a very large bowl add pasta and sauce then toss it together well, add chicken and mix well. Serve immediately with grated Asiago Cheese.

*Sun dried tomatoes are very expensive in the grocery store, but I buy them in bulk at the wholesale
food clubs for a big savings.

Prep tips;
I like to separate garlic cloves and press down on each one with a flat metal sandwich spreader until you hear a pop, then the skin will peel right off. Also I recommend that you treat yourself to a garlic press, don't buy a cheap one because they never last long.

Separate basil leaves and stack them on top of one another holding between your fingers, then cut into thin strips with kitchen scissors. I also cut the sun dried tomatoes into strips with scissors as well.