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Pasta is one of my favorite dishes to experiment with, and this Bacon Chicken Pasta with Tomatoes and Spinach is my most recent creation.
It’s delicious, with great flavors and textures that really complement each other, and I’m glad so many folks requested a written recipe for it (they gave me an excuse to make it again so soon for “measurement purposes”).
In the photo above I kept the chicken and bacon separate from the pasta to accommodate my non-meat-eating daughter – the dish looks different when everything is stirred together.
In this recipe for Bacon Chicken Pasta, I’ve instructed you to cut your chicken breasts into chunks. I prefer it this way because it allows more surface area to get seasoned and seared, but if you want to keep the chicken breasts whole you definitely can.
Adjust the cooking time as needed to reach 165ºF internally so you don’t get food poisoning. I liked to cook my tomatoes whole and let them blister and collapse a bit and if you decide to chop them make sure to account for the extra moisture they’ll release.
1lb boneless skinless chicken, cut into 1/2” chunks
1lb dry pasta noodles, dealer’s choice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 C heavy whipping cream
1 C whole milk*
2 C (8 oz) baby spinach
1 C cherry tomatoes
1 C parmesan cheese
1/2 C low-moisture mozzarella cheese
4 tbsp salted butter
2 tbsp cajun seasoning, as needed
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp seasoned salt, to taste
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook bacon until crispy, and remove from pan, leaving behind the grease. When it’s cooled enough to handle, crumble or chop it into small pieces.
Season the chicken liberally with the cajun seasoning. Add to the same pan you cooked the bacon grease in, in batches if needed, oil or butter to supplement the bacon fat if needed. Flip the chicken occasionally so that all sides get a good sear. After the chicken is cooked through, about 7-10 minutes, remove it from the pan and set it aside.
Add 1/2 stick of butter to the pan. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any stuck-on bits. At this point, start on your pasta according to the package directions. Al dente is good. If the package doesn’t say to salt your cooking water, this recipe is telling you to salt your cooking water!
When the butter has melted, add garlic, stir until fragrant which should take about 3 minutes, and then add tomatoes. Allow them to blister, then add the spinach and cover with a lid.
After the spinach has wilted and the tomatoes have burst, pour in the heavy cream and add the remainder of the seasonings. Stir together. If you think you’ll want more sauce – we’re doing to reduce this – add the cup of milk.
Add your mozzarella in small pieces – I shred mine or pull it into small pieces with my fingers – and parmesan. Stir to help the cheese melt more evenly, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes, until thickened and slightly reduced.
The noodles should finish while the sauce is simmering. Drain it well, reserving up to a cup of the pasta water in case you decide you want even more sauce in the end (keep in mind that the pasta will absorb some of the sauce as it rests).
Stir in the cooked chicken and bacon. Taste it and add more salt (and seasonings) as needed. When you’re satisfied, stir the sauce and drained pasta, as well as as much of the reserved pasta water as you’d like, if any.
Stir together until well combined and finish with cracked black pepper. Dassit.