I made this dish for my friends last week and we all LOVED it.
The key to making such an easy yet totally-not-boring dinner is this: skip the pasta sauce aisle. Instead, try using a dip!
I bought Litehouse’s Spinach Parmesan Dip and Spread. I used just about the whole 15oz container to go along with 2 boxes of pasta, chicken and veggies to serve a dozen people.
I based my dinner off a recipe by Taste of Home. Since I was serving my roommates and some other friends, I needed a good amount of food. I cooked 2 boxes, or 16 servings, of penne pasta.
Get the Pan Ready
You’re going to need 2 pots: one to boil the pasta and one to sauté the rest of the food.
While I was waiting for the pasta water to boil, I chopped up 4 cloves of garlic. I set a saucepan on the stove with a light coating of oregano-infused olive oil. Once the pan was warm, I tossed in the garlic.
Meanwhile, my roommate cut up one red bell pepper. We let the garlic sizzle in the pan until golden brown. It’s important to keep the heat no higher than medium so that the garlic doesn’t burn.
Adding the Ingredients
Time to add in that red bell pepper! Once the red bell pepper is in the pan, you can also add your chicken. We bought Perdue’s pre-cooked chicken strips to make this bulk-sized meal a lot easier. If you’re cooking raw chicken, you would want to cook it first since it’d take longer.
Cook the Pasta
As you’re adding in the chicken, your pot of water is likely boiling. Add in your pasta and cook for about 12 minutes.
The stovetop pan with garlic, pepper and chicken in it can stay on medium heat and be covered with a lid to cook fully through.
The Finishing Touches: Sauce and Spinach
Once everything is cooked, you can combine the two pans. I drained the pasta water (leaving just about 1/4 cup of starchy pasta water in the pot) and then added the chicken and veggie mix into the pasta pot.
Now we can add the sauce (or rather, dip) along with some fresh baby spinach. I spooned out a few tablespoons of the dip at a time, mixing it all together. I ended up using just about the whole 15 oz container. That’s about one ounce per serving of pasta.
Meanwhile, as you’re adding in the sauce, toss in a container (or a few handfuls) of spinach. Mix all the ingredients together in the large pan. The warmth of the pasta and other foods will wilt the spinach. Cover the pot with a lid to keep warmth in and wilt the spinach more quickly.
Once the spinach is wilted and the sauce is just the perfect amount, you’re all set!
We served this dinner with a toasted French baguette!
This pasta recipe is so simple and relatively healthy. It’s much less dense and rich than other recipes that use milk, heavy cream or butter. I felt good about eating this pasta dish. It’s light, packed with nutrients and iron, and leaves you feeling satisfied yet not stuffed.
You can find Taste of Home’s recipe here, a loose adaptation to mine: “Cheesy Bow Tie Chicken.”