This meal right here…whoa! Let’s just say it never disappoints. I came up with this recipe while craving a hearty pasta dish that was unique and different from my go-to “meat and red sauce” pasta dinners. Inspired by Italian fare I’ve eaten at restaurants over the years, this dish combines layers of flavor from protein, vegetables, herbs and spices and is beautifully wrapped together in a delectable sun-dried tomato cream sauce. But be warned: this meal is a labor of love (it takes me, on average, about 2 hours to make) and it is a crowd pleaser! Do not make this meal for anyone you don’t want coming back to your house.
Chicken and Bacon Sundried Tomato Pasta
Servings: About 6 decent dinner portions
Total time: 2 hours (give or take)
- 1-1 ½ lb of chicken breast, cut into small cubes (between ½ inch and 1 inch)
- Salt and pepper
- ½ lb of bacon (I like to use thick, peppered bacon or applewood smoked bacon, but any type of bacon works)
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 large white or yellow onion, diced or thinly sliced (I’ve used both)
- 16oz of mushrooms (white or baby bellas), thinly sliced
- 7-8oz package of baby spinach
- 16oz of farfalle pasta (aka bowtie pasta)
- 8oz jar of sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil)
- About 2-3 TBSP of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes
- ½ tsp of paprika
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried parsley
- 2 tsp dried basil (or fresh chopped basil)
- A pinch of dried thyme
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 cup of half-and-half or heavy cream
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- ½ – 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan*
- Optional: crushed red pepper flake (seasoned to taste, I use about ½ tsp)
Let’s do this!
- Start by cooking the bacon. Using kitchen shears, cut the bacon into bite-size pieces, about 1 inch (the bacon will shrink upon cooking; if you prefer, you can also cook the bacon in strips and then crumble or chop the bacon once its fully cooked and has cooled). Add to a deep skillet or a large, deep pot (I use my Rachael Ray oval spaghetti pot or a dutch oven) and cook, over medium-to-medium-high heat, for about 10-15 minutes. Check and stir the bacon occasionally so it doesn’t burn.
- While the bacon is cooking, prep the chicken. Using the kitchen shears, cut the chicken into small cubes and place in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Check the bacon, stir as needed. If it still needs time to cook, start grating the cheese in a separate bowl. Place aside. If time allows, start prepping the onion.
- By now the bacon is either fully cooked or is getting close to being done. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate (I line mine with paper towel to catch/blot extra grease). Leave the hot bacon grease in your pot or skillet and add the cubed chicken.
- Cook the chicken in the bacon grease for about 10-15 minutes, stirring and turning as necessary. While the chicken is cooking, start prepping the mushrooms.**
- Once the chicken is cooked through, transfer it to another plate. Remove the pot or skillet away from the heat. Allow it to cool before disposing of the remaining grease. (If you didn’t get to the onion previously, now would be a good time to start prepping those.)
- Now it’s time to start working on the sauce! But first, start boiling a pot of water for the pasta. (I use the same pot for the pasta that I did to cook the bacon and the chicken.) Once the water starts to boil, add a handful of sea salt. This is your only chance to season the pasta itself.
- While the pasta water is coming to a boil, take a large, deep skillet and heat it over medium heat. Take about 2 TBSP of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and add it to the pan. Add the onions and allow them to cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Once the onions start to get golden in color (about 10 minutes of total cook time, give or take), add the mushrooms to the pot along with the remaining oil from sun-dried tomatoes and the minced garlic. Stir to combine. Allow the mushrooms and onions to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
- Begin to wilt in the baby spinach. I roughly tear the spinach leaves, adding in a handful at a time, and stir to combine. Once the spinach wilts down, add the chicken broth and the half-and-half.
- By now the pasta water should have come to a roaring boil. Drop the pasta and cook according to the package. (The average cook time is around 10 minutes.)
- Drain the rest of the oil in the sun-dried tomatoes and then chop the tomatoes to your desired size (I roughly chop mine). Add to the sauce. Season with the paprika, parsley, oregano, and basil. Stir in the freshly grated parmesan cheese, using at least ½ a cup (or more). Taste test, add more salt and pepper if needed.
- Once the pasta is done cooking, drain, and return it back to the pot. Add the entire skillet of sauce to the pot of pasta as well as the cooked bacon and the cooked chicken. (Before adding them to the pot, feel free to cut both the bacon and chicken if you prefer smaller pieces.) Stir to incorporate all of the flavors.
- Optional: Serve topped with more parmesan and sprinkled with crushed red pepper flake.
*I use Trader Joe’s black pepper Toscana cheese
** Never completely immerse mushrooms in water. They naturally retain water and submerging mushrooms in water will make them rubbery while cooking. Instead, I recommend using a damp paper towel to clean the dirt and grim off of the mushrooms. It is time consuming, but it is worth it.