Saturday, February 18, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Pasta with Chicken

I have tried this recipe once before as a vegetarian option, but this time decided to add some protein in the form of chicken...I am surprised at how much my kids like this meal even though it has red peppers in it (they are not fans except my youngest dear son who eats anything). I also thought I would try roasting my own peppers since I have a few in stock in the fridge. Check out this section of my blog to find out how I roasted the red peppers I had on hand...

  • 3 cloves garlic (sometimes I add more, my family loves garlic!)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 to 2 inch square block of Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup roasted red bell pepper (fresh or jarred)
  • 3 TBSP dried basil
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. pasta of your choice (I choose 100% whole wheat pasta, usually spaghetti) cooked according to directions
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water after cooking
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half (I was out of heavy cream and half and half so I replaced with a can of evaporated milk 1/2 cup, could probably use skim milk, too)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (I was also out of ricotta cheese so I replaced with a 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese shredded)
  • 1 cup cooked diced chicken breast (I always have some frozen diced chicken breast or you could use rotisserie or leftovers from another chicken meal)

Place garlic, walnuts, and Parmesan cheese in a food processor.  Pulse until finely chopped. 

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Before draining, remove 1 cup of the starchy cooking water from the pot with a coffee cup or measuring cup. A little trick I learned from Rachael Ray, by saving the starchy cooking water, it helps bring the sauce together to make it creamier. 

While the pasta is cooking, dice your cooked chicken breast and red roasted peppers.

Drain the pasta and return to the pot.  Add the garlic-parmesan-walnut pesto mix to the pasta and stir to combine.  Add the roasted red pepper and diced chicken, basil, salt and pepper.  Add olive oil and mix well. Stir in heavy cream and ricotta cheese for a creamier sauce. Add small amounts of the starchy cooking water to the creamy pasta until you feel you have a good sauce and moves easily. Heat until warmed through.  

Serve immediately with a side salad and garlic bread. Today, I served it with apple slices for the kids.
Everyone loved it, except Dear Daughter and she is NOT my pickiest eater...Even my pickiest eater ate every last bite!