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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Chicken Ziti

I love all things pasta! Which is why I could never go 'no carb', but that's another issue... Back to pasta.  I also love 1 dish, casserole-like meals, that can be made ahead.  My husband will humor my pasta concoctions as long as there is meat in them.  Here is a new favorite, Summer Chicken Ziti... Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Summer Chicken Ziti
Serves 6, total time 30 minutes

2 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts, raw- cut to 1" pieces
3 shallots, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (28oz) can San Marzano plum tomatoes
Salt & pepper
4 sprigs of fresh tarragon, leaves off and chopped
15 leaves fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
1 lb ziti or short pasta
1 lb asparagus, cut into 1" pieces
1 c frozen peas
1 c low fat ricotta cheese
1 c grated Parmigiano-reggiano or Parmesan
1 tsp lemon zest
1-2 c shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400.  Bring large pot of salted water to boil over high heat for pasta.
In a large, high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Sauté chicken pieces, until brown. Add shallots and garlic, continue to cook for 3 min. Stir in tomatoes, then crush with spoon or potato masher.  Season with salt & pepper. Cook for 5 min, then remove from heat, and stir in fresh tarragon and basil.
While sauce is cooking, drop pasta into water, cook until almost al dente, about 5 min. Add asparagus & peas, until bright green. Drain pasta & veggies. In the pot you just used to cook the pasta, add ricotta cheese, half of Parmigiano, and lemon zest- mix. Then add hot pasta and veggies. Stir until everything is coated.
In a baking dish, pour about 1 cup of sauce in bottom and spread. Add half pasta mixture, then some sauce, then remaining pasta mixture and sauce.  Top with remaining Parmigiano cheese and mozzarella**.  Bake in oven until bubbly & brown, about 10-12 min.
**Instead of baking, You may cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate upto 24hrs, or with plastic wrap then foil and freeze for upto 3 months.

Some variations:
-substitute already cooked chicken leftover from the grill or a rotisserie chicken
-add fresh spinach to pasta mixture
-add zucchini slices when sautéing shallots, chicken, and garlic.
-substitute 1/2lb fresh mozzarella for shredded on top of pasta.
-eliminate chicken, make it vegetarian

Bonus, this pasta dish, as with most pasta dishes, tastes great as leftovers too!!  Enjoy!!

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