CHICKEN PASTA WITH BACON AND SPINACH IN CREAMY TOMATO SAUCE
1poundboneless and skinless chicken(thick in size, such as chicken breasts)
5medium tomatoes(chopped in cubes)
10oz.package of fresh spinach
1cuphalf and half
1cupParmesan cheeseshredded (more for garnish)
1teaspoonItalian seasoning(more, if desired)
1/4teaspooncrushed red pepper flakes
BACON:Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Arrange bacon strips and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon. Transfer cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined platter that will absorb extra grease. Chop into 1 inch slices.
CHICKEN:Paper towel dry the chicken and rub it in seasoning mixture, then set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet. Add chicken breasts and cook on each side on medium high heat for a total of 3-4 minutes until nicely browned. If chicken is still pink in the center, reduce heat to medium and cook covered for several minutes until no longer pink in the center. Add sliced garlic in the last minute of cooking chicken, cook for 1-2 minutes until browned and fragrant.
REMOVE CHICKEN FROM PAN:Slice it in thick strips and return only half of it back to the skillet (we want to keep the other half intact for later). Also, make sure that all liquid, if any, is removed after cooking the chicken (it depends on the chicken you use), otherwise the dish will be too watery.
TOMATOES and SPINACH:Add chopped tomatoes to the remaining chicken and cook for 3 minutes on high until tomatoes release their juices. Add fresh spinach in 4 consecutive batches until it wilts.
CHEESY SAUCE: Add half and half (see note if half and half is not availabe) and bring the mixture to boil. Reduce to simmer and slowly add Parmesan cheese – until the cheese melts and makes the sauce creamy. Remove from heat.
PASTA: In the meantime bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta and cook it according to instructions. Drain the pasta, but do not rinse.
ADDING BACON:Add pasta and bacon and stir until fully coated in sauce. Season with more salt if necessary.
ADDING REMOVED 1/2 OF CHICKEN:Now it’s time to add the 1/2 of chicken that we removed earlier and slightly mix it in with the rest of the ingredients (I just pushed my chicken slightly into the skillet). Cover with a lid until ready to serve to keep warm.
TO SERVE:Serve with additional shredded Parmesan and red pepper flakes, if desired.