I hosted a bake exchange last night that resulted in 12 kinds of amazingness in my freezer that I’m trying not to think about so it will last longer than my mint chocolate nanaimo bars did. So, today, let’s talk about something savoury, something healthy and balanced and fresh to pull us out of either a dinner rut or a sugar coma. Or maybe both.
We all make a lot of dinners. Around here, many of them would qualify as average to mediocre, and the vast majority do not involve recipes. But I’m back into the meal planning swing of things, for the most part, which means I try at least one new recipe every week. My first week of meal planning was a bit over-zealous, with 5 new recipes in the rotation, but three of those were fabulous, so it was worth it, and they’re coming your way :) I am trying to find more and more recipes where at least some of the prep can be done early in the day, while the little boys nap, leaving more time after school to catch up with my girlie, who apparently now has both a boyfriend and a club. It’s hard to keep up with Grade 1.
Let’s start with this creamy, garlicky, spinachy, bacony chicken meal. Did I mention it’s easy and tastes just as good as any restaurant pasta ever could? Because there’s that, too. Perfect weeknight food, and perfect to serve to company – a win on so many levels.
I always love finding a new way to prepare chicken, an oh-so-popular meat in my house that everyone can chew and that gets minimal complaints even from the two little almost-vegetarians. This recipe was a hit with everyone, and I loved being able to plate everything and bring it to the table to oohs and aaahs.
I don’t make pasta as often as I used to anymore, which makes its appearance more exciting, and which makes my standards when it does appear much higher. This will be a regular in our rotation now. You can easily add mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, or whatever strikes your fancy along with the bacon and garlic for a gorgeous colourful sauce with even more flavours going on, but it is also perfect in its simplicity. Give it a try and let me know your thoughts!
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ½ Tbsp salt or seasoning salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
- 4 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 Tbsp flour
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 1½ cups 2% milk or half-and-half
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 6 oz fresh baby spinach
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 lb / 454 grams farfalle (bowtie) pasta (or your favourite pasta)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a foil-lined baking sheet and set aside.
- In shallow pie plate or baking dish, combine flour, salt and pepper, basil and oregano. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, thoroughly coating all sides, pressing flour on with your hands if it's easier.
- In large non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering hot. With tongs, place chicken breasts in the hot pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side (without moving it around as it will affect the crust developing properly), until browned but not cooked through. Remove chicken to prepared baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Set aside and tent with foil until pasta and sauce are ready.
- While chicken is baking, heat a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.
- After removing the chicken from the skillet, wipe out skillet with a paper towel and sauté chopped bacon for about 5 minutes, until almost fully cooked, then add garlic and sauté another minute, stirring constantly. If there's a lot of grease, drain some, but do keep a little around to add flavour to the sauce.
- Stir in 1 Tablespoon flour, then add chicken broth to the skillet and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, whisking regularly, until sauce thickens slightly, 3-4 minutes.
- In measuring cup, whisk together milk and cornstarch, then add to the skillet along with the spinach. Bring back to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted and sauce is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese and add salt and/or pepper to taste.
- When pasta is cooked, drain and return to pot. Toss pasta with half the sauce. Divide pasta over 4 plates, top each plate for a cooked chicken breast, and spoon remaining sauce evenly over top of the chicken. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.