Saturday we celebrated my husband’s birthday in the way we love best ~ having the family over and chowing on lots of great food. We used to celebrate birthdays at a restaurant but discovered it’s a lot more fun at home. Everyone (except the birthday boy or girl) brings something and we end up with a drool-worthy spread. The best part though is the time spent together and the laughs we share. The resident comedian these days is our 2 year old grandson who entertains us without even trying. The menu is designed around the birthday boy or girl’s preferences. My husband wanted barbecue ribs which he insisted on making himself. It was his birthday, so we shook our heads and indulged him. In typical fashion, we made way too much food starting with the appetizers, followed by the entrée and all the sides and of course birthday cake for dessert. The result was plenty of leftover food. My husband’s favorite lines ~ “are you trying to kill me?”(I think he’s referring to the quantity of food) and “who else is coming for dinner?” were repeated several times. I like to think I have a knack for reinventing meals out of seemingly nothing, but barbecued ribs are, well. . .barbecued ribs. The next day they’re still. . .barbecued ribs, reheated. My habit of making too much food is part of the inspiration behind Same Ingredients/Different Results ~ two different meals without wasted ingredients. The other was my daughter, Lauren who loves to cook, but because she’s single, doesn’t want to make a big batch of something and eat the same leftovers all week. Tuesday I made Hasselback Chicken – juicy, cheesy spinach chicken breast with enough to use in the recipe for this Cheesy Chicken Tomato Spinach Pasta. Don’t let the long name scare you off. It’s easy ~ perfect for weeknights but fancy enough to entertain with.
Thursday is my favorite TV night. I’m a card-carrying Grey’s Anatomy fan, followed by a dose of the BlackList. Sundays were usually Netflix nights until a new show I’ve gotten completely hooked on, The Family on ABC. A young boy was kidnapped about 10 years ago and presumed dead. He suddenly returns, but some family members are suspicious about his true identify. Everyone in the family has some sort of secret and the writers do a great job leaving you on the edge of your seat at the end of each episode. If you haven’t watched it and like a good soap opera, this is it.
But you’re here to make Cheesy Chicken Tomato Spinach Pasta so let’s get started. First off, if you were here on Tuesday, you’ll have some leftover ingredients ~ Hasselback Chicken, spinach, cream cheese, Italian seasoning and mozzarella cheese that we’ll be using in this recipe. Next, Barilla PRONTO Pasta. This is my first crack at this “One Pan, No Boil, No Drain” pasta. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Barilla knows how (a) short on time we are on any given weekday and (b) we only want to do the bare minimum in cleanup ~ two good reasons to give Barilla’s new pasta a chance.
Drizzle some olive oil into a pot or deep-sided skillet over medium-low heat. When the oil is warm, drop in the chopped onion and grated garlic, stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the pasta to the skillet and 3 cups of water or enough to just cover the pasta. Increase the heat to high and ~ this part is important ~ set a timer for 10 minutes. Let the pasta to boil uncovered as it absorbs the water, stirring occasionally.
While the pasta is cooking, sprinkle on 1 1/2 tablespoons of Good Seasons Italian Seasoning and the fresh spinach (stems removed) . When the 10 minute timer goes off, continue over low heat and blend in the tomato paste, followed by the can of diced tomatoes (including the juice).
Cube the cream cheese and add it to the pasta blending until it’s completely melted and combined. Cut the Hasselback Chicken into medium size chunks and add it to the pan, combining with the pasta. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top. Optional: broil for several seconds until lightly browned.
- 1 - box of Barilla PRONTO penne pasta
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- Drizzle of olive oil
- 1 - 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of Good Seasons Italian seasoning (from Hasselback Chicken recipe)
- 2 - tablespoons of tomato paste
- ½ package of cream cheese
- ½ package of mozzarella cheese
- ½ bag fresh spinach
- 2 - Hasselback chicken breasts (from recipe #1 of this week). Optional: 1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken
- In a pot or skillet with deep sides, drizzle olive oil over medium-low heat and when the oil is warm, drop in the chopped onion and grated garlic, stirring so the garlic doesn't burn.
- Add the pasta to the skillet and 3 cups of water - enough to just cover the pasta.
- Increase the heat to high, SET A TIMER FOR 10 MINUTES and allow the pasta to boil uncovered as it absorbs the water, stirring occasionally.
- While the pasta is simmering, fold in 1 1/2 tablespoons of Good Seasons Italian Seasoning and the fresh spinach (stems removed) .
- When the 10 minute timer goes off, continue over low heat and blend in the tomato paste, followed by the can of diced tomatoes (including the juice).
- Cube the cream cheese and add it to the pasta blending until it's completely melted and combined.
- Cube the Hasselback chicken from recipe #1 and add to the skillet, blending and allowing it to warm. Optional: add cooked chicken.
- Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top. Optional: broil for several seconds until lightly browned.
- **Spoon the remaining tomato paste into a ziplock baggie and store in the freezer. Add to sauces or soups for a heartier flavor.