As winter gives way, ever so slightly, to spring, it’s time for that seasonal pre-emptive task: cleaning the freezer and refrigerator. Usually February is the time when I finally get rid of the last remnants of summers frozen goodies before they age too much or suffer freezer burn.
This evening, yearning for an easy and quick dinner, my goal was to use up some of those summer lingerers. As luck would have it, I found a cup of frozen basil pesto from the last of the summer herb garden.
Dinner came together in a snap after that! The refrigerator search yielded some leftover grated Parmesan cheese, some toasted walnuts, half a loaf of sourdough bread, and a package of chicken that was ready for cooking.
About 3 minutes of thought evoked a meal that only necessitated a few more simple ingredients! One simple dinner of very few ingredients and less than hour to prepare is a relaxing and satisfying end to a restful weekend.
After Summer Pesto-Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce with Chicken over Penne and Fresh Spinach
(Serves approximately 4-6)
A heaping ¼ cup of homemade basil pesto (use store-bought if needed)
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced with a bit of the jar oil.
Olive oil for sautéing
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
3 cups fresh spinach
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb. penne pasta*
Fresh basil for garnish
Toasted chopped walnuts for garnish
Grated or shredded Parmesan for garnish
(Optional side: sliced, toasted sourdough bread served with fresh brushetta)
Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta while you are sautéing the chicken.
Heat a 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Sauté the chicken until just cooked through and the pink is gone. Remove from the heat, strain the chicken and set aside in a bowl.
Add the penne pasta to the boiling water and cook for approximately 9-11 minutes, until pasta is al dente.
Using the skillet, add the basil pesto and sun-dried tomatoes to the pan. Heat for 1-2 minutes over low heat and then add the heavy cream. Increase the heat to medium high, stirring to blend. When the cream sauce begins to thicken, add the chicken and stir to coat.
The sauce and the pasta should be ready at about the same time. Drain the pasta. Turn off the sauce. Layer the fresh spinach in a bowl. Top with penne pasta. Add the sauce with chicken.
Be sure the garnishes are on the table and serve! A sprinkle of minced fresh basil livens up the dish and makes it even more aromatic!
*For a gluten-free option, substitute gluten-free pasta for the Penne. You can use quinoa pasta, brown rice pasta or your preference.