Grilled chicken and whole wheat pasta tossed in a decadently creamy Florentine sauce with sundried tomatoes, spinach, garlic and parmesan cheese. This quick, delicious dinner tastes incredibly decadent, yet is low in fat, high in protein and will undoubtedly become a weeknight family favorite.
Talk about a super easy, flavorful dish that you needed in your life five minutes ago. This quick meal is totally equipped for manic Mondays, yet is equally awesome for weekend entertaining. It’s a meal the manliest of men in your life will enjoy, yet is also very kid-friendly. And picky-eater friendly. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a hearty bowl of pasta??
The funny thing is I’m usually not very big on cream sauces. Like, at ALL. I’d take a red sauce or olive oil-based one over anything white and creamy 99% of the time. But holy cow did this one win me over in the very best way. I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, nutritious comfort food at its FINESTTT.If you’ve ever noticed a “Florentine” dish offered on the menu at an Italian restaurant, you can almost guarantee it’s going to be very high in fat. I believe Macaroni Grill has (or did have) one with a whopping 50 grams of fat, mostly coming from heavy cream, loads of cheese and oil. Well, I’m happy to report this dish has less than 25% of that amount.
Which basically means you still have plenty of room for froyo after dinner. Let’s savor the end of the weekend with a comforting bowl of pasta, a side of fresh greens and a new episode of Game of Thrones, shall we?
Sounds like the best night ever.
- 10 ounces whole wheat pasta (I used shells)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 ounce diced pancetta
- 4 ounces light cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup unsweetened cashew (or almond) milk
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 (7 ounce) jar of sundried tomatoes, drained of oil
- 4 generous handfuls (~5 oz) fresh baby spinach
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup finely chopped italian parsley
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions.
- While the pasta cooks, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Once hot, add pancetta and cook until crispy, ~3 minutes. Add chicken and season with salt and pepper. Saute for ~5-7 minutes, until slightly browned.
- While the chicken cooks, in the bowl of an electric mixer (or a food processor), combine cream cheese and cashew milk. It's very important that cream cheese is at room temperature or else it will not blend well. Blend until smooth and creamy.
- Slice sundried tomatoes into small strips. Add to saute pan along with garlic, saute until fragrant, ~1-2 minutes. Gently pour milk mixture into pan and lower heat to medium-low.
- At this point, your pasta should be al dente. Before draining it, use a glass measuring cup to remove ~1 cup of pasta water and set aside. Drain pasta and add it to saute pan, along with fresh spinach, parmesan cheese and parsley. The spinach should wilt pretty quickly as you mix it into hot pasta, but you may need to add it in increments.
- At this point, if the sauce is too thick, pour in some leftover pasta water (I ended up using ~1/2-2/3 cup). If you're satisfied with the consistency, remove from heat, spoon into bowls and serve!
To make gluten-free, use brown rice pasta or your favorite GF variety
To reheat, cook stove-top in a small sauce pan over medium heat and add ~2-3 tbsp water or chicken broth