When it’s a busy night and you have a family to feed, hearty, one-pot dishes can be your saving grace. This recipe, with juicy chicken, creamy sauce and fresh spinach, is sure to please everyone at the table.
My obsession with fast, one-pot meals is a direct result of being the mother of four boys. The “When’s dinner, Mom?” line of questioning would start like clockwork each evening as they arrived home after a very long day of school and sports. Oh, the horror if there was no dinner plan! It’s no fun to try to get a family of six to agree on what to get for dinner when it’s late, everyone is tired, and you have a pack of hungry boys on your hands.
Over the years I began to incorporate more of these simple, practical, weeknight dinners into the rotation. Even on an insanely busy day you can get a hearty, comforting dish on the table in about 30 minutes. If that meal included pasta, my boys were always satisfied … at least until after their homework was done. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all have the metabolism of a 16-year-old athlete?
If you’ve never cooked a one-pot pasta dish before, you’ll be amazed at the result. Dry pasta is added right to the skillet along with the other ingredients and as the liquid cooks off, you are left with perfectly al dente pasta and the base for a wonderful, creamy sauce. It’s pretty darn fabulous. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, it reheats beautifully and will be just as tasty the next day — or later that same night when the craving strikes.
Start things off by coating a 12-inch, deep skillet with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Saute 1 pound of chopped, boneless, skinless chicken breast and season it with a little Italian seasoning, salt, and fresh ground pepper as it cooks. For the precise ingredient measurements and full directions, see the recipe below. When the chicken is cooked through, transfer it to a plate and return the skillet to the stove.
Add a bit more olive oil and the chopped onion and garlic. Cook and stir until softened and lightly browned.
In goes some chicken broth, a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, and some crushed red pepper for a little heat. If you’re feeding kiddos, you can leave the crushed red pepper out completely or reduce the amount to your taste.
Time to add the dry pasta.
Stir the uncooked pasta right into the sauce.
Return the cooked chicken to the skillet, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. This gives you just enough time to warm a loaf of French bread and toss together a quick salad to go along with the meal.
Remove the cover and add a bit of half-and-half and some shredded mozzarella. This is going to add a creamy, luxurious layer to that sauce. Continue to simmer until the cheese has melted and then remove the skillet from the heat.
Add a small bag of fresh baby spinach. It may seem like a lot but trust me — spinach has major wilting issues. You’ll be surprised just how much it reduces down.
Stir the spinach into the pasta and sauce and you will be ready to serve.
Top it with a little Parmesan and this is one extraordinary dish. It’s simple and delicious, and cleanup is a breeze. It doesn’t get any better than that in my book.
One-Pot Chicken Spinach Skillet Pasta
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 generous servings
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 2 1/2 cups (8 ounces) uncooked, dry penne pasta
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 (5-ounce) bag fresh baby spinach
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a 12-inch, deep skillet or saute pan and place over medium heat. Add the chopped chicken and cook, stirring frequently. Sprinkle the chicken with Italian seasoning, a touch of salt and fresh ground pepper, and continue cooking for 3 or 4 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.
- Add the remaining olive oil to pan and add the onions. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Add broth, tomatoes, dry pasta, crushed red pepper and a little more salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Stir in the cooked chicken and bring to a boil, cover the skillet, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the half-and-half and mozzarella and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until the mixture is warmed through and cheese has melted.
- Remove the skillet from heat and stir in the fresh spinach until it wilts from heat of the pasta. Top with Parmesan and serve.
For more simple, weeknight meal ideas visit my blog Valerie’s Kitchen.
Photo credits: Valerie Brunmeier