First off, I need a new camera. I promise that my pasta dish was much lovelier in person. Much less over exposed looking. I have been recommended to get the Canon Powershot. Maybe I am just lousy photographer. Only one way to tell for certain - buy a better camera. I bought my camera a few years ago when digital cameras were still very pricey.
Once again, this is a dish where the name is the recipe. I really love this dish as I am a big fan of pasta but don't always want a sauce. This does have a bit of a sauce from the cheese and some of the pasta cooking water. When I was making this last night, I was thinking of how I am forever hearing from people that one of the hardest things they find about cooking is to time everything correctly so it is all done together, you know? This dish is a very good challenge at that, actually. So, I shall attempt to put the recipe procedure in chronological order... here goes.
Rigatoni with grilled chicken, spinach, and cherry tomatoes
1/2 lb. box of rigatoni or some other tube shaped ridged pasta (be careful, some pastas are sold in 12 oz. boxes, not 1 lb.)
2 boneless skinless chicken breast
4 ounces of baby spinach
10 each cherry tomatoes
1 cup - about 3 1/2 ounces of grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
First, heat a grill pan over medium high heat and then put a large pot of water on to boil. Place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap with the skin side down (I know it is skinless but the side that would have had the skin is smother and shinier - it will be easier to pound the chicken with the non-skin side facing up) and using a meat mallet pound out until about 1/4 inch thick. This is not an exercise in brutality on defenseless chicken breast! That is to say it does not take a lot of force but rather some patience and consistency. Pound from the thickest part of the breast to the edge. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brush the hot grill pan with olive oil just to coat the surface and place chicken breast skin side down (the smooth, shinier side that would have had the skin).
The water should be boiling by now, yes? Liberally salt the water. Seriously, it should taste like ocean water. Not the Dead Sea, but the Atlantic Ocean. Don't try to taste the boiling water! Just use about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for a large pot. Next, add the pasta to the boiling, well salted water. Give it a stir. Meanwhile, the chicken should be cooking away with no help from us. So, wash the spinach and tomatoes and shake off excess water. Pinch the stems from the spinach and cut the tomatoes in half. Reserve in a bowl. Put a large saute' pan on to heat over medium high heat. Everything will come together in this pan, so make sure it is big enough. Turn the chicken since about 5-6 minutes have gone by since you put it on. Stir the pasta. Peel and slice the garlic - reserve. Ok, here is the tricky timing part. The pasta should have been cooking for about 8 minutes and should be close to done now. Test a piece. If it is close to done for you, then add about a tablespoon of oil to the large saute' pan we put on to heat (remember that?) Add the spinach and tomatoes to the large saute pan. Toss to coat in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. After 30 seconds, use a slotted spoon, remove the cooked pasta from the boiling water, directly into the saute' pan with the spinach and tomatoes. Toss or stir to combine. Add 3/4 of the cheese and use a ladle to add 1/2 - 3/4 a cup of the pasta cooking water. Toss to combine and heat through about 1 minute. Transfer this to a serving bowl. Remember the chicken? It should be perfectly cooked now, so remove from the grill pan to a cutting board and cut into thin strips. Add the chicken strips to the pasta mix and combine. Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and serve. This all told has taken less than 20 minutes, right? Obviously, I served mine with some good bread. Unfortunately, my camera is making my bread look moldy. I promise, I do not eat moldy bread. Like I said, I really need a new camera.