Baked Chicken Florentine Pasta

Baked Chicken Florentine Pasta and Variations

A local restaurant used to make this great Chicken Florentine Pasta with a yummy garlic cream sauce that I loved.  Last time I ordered it to go it was dry and not very yummy at all.  SO, I decided to try to make it myself.  Then I got carried away, threw in several other ingredients and ended up with something a bit over the top.  Below is the dish I actually made, along with some suggested, simpler variations . . . Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (12 oz.) dry pasta (I used Penne Rigate, but anything substantial will do)
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbls. oil
  • 1 tsp Penzey’s Florida Seasoned Pepper (this is a combo of pepper, lemon and orange peel, garlic and onion, but feel free to use any salt free seasoning that works well on chicken)
  • 3-5 oz. baby spinach, cleaned
  • 1 tsp. Italian Herb Seasoning (or a combination of oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme and cracked rosemary)
  • 1 oz sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in 1/2 cup of boiling water (or approx. 1/3 cup of the oil soaked variety), drained & julienned  (optional)
  • 6 oz. jar marinated artichoke heart quarters, drained (I cut each one in half, but feel free to use as is) (optional)
  • 4 oz. goat cheese (optional)
  • 4 Tbls. butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 4 Tbls. flour
  • 3 cups milk and/or half&half
  • 1/2 – 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

There are three basic components to this dish: pasta, a chicken and vegetable sauté, garlic cream sauce, each prepared separately and then baked together in a 3-quart casserole.  You can make the parts one at a time and set aside or all at once, depending on your stovetop-juggling skills.

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Grease a 3-quart casserole.

Heat 3-4 quarts of water to boiling.  Salt or not as you prefer.  Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box/bag and according to your preferred tenderness.  Drain, set aside.

While the pasta is cooking and you prepare the other ingredients, marinate the chicken in the 2 Tbls. oil and the Florida Seasoned Pepper.

If your sun-dried tomatoes need rehydrating, make sure you have done that.

Prepare your garlic cream sauce: Melt the 4 Tbls. butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the minced garlic and cook gently for about a minute.  Do NOT let it brown or burn!  Gradually add the flour to make a roux.  Once all the flour is added, cook for 1-2 minutes to cook the flour.  Now gradually add the milk or half&half, whisking or stirring frequently.  You want a medium-thick cream sauce.  Once the sauce will coat the back of a spoon (or is the thickness you desire), turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese.

Prepare the chicken and vegetable sauté: Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and its oil/spice marinade.  Cook until the chicken has lost it pinkness.  Stir in the Italian Herb Seasoning and the sun-dried tomatoes.  Stir in the artichoke hearts.  Toss in the spinach; cover and cook until the spinach wilts.

Assemble: Combine the pasta and the chicken/vegetable mixture.  Place half into the prepared casserole dish.  Sprinkle on half of the goat cheese.  Add the remaining pasta mixture and the remaining goat cheese.  Stir gently to combine.  Pour the garlic cream sauce over the entire contents of the casserole dish.  Once again, stir GENTLY to combine.  Finally, sprinkle the grated mozzarella over the top.

Cover and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly.  You might want to remove the cover for the last 15 minutes to brown the top.

Notes & Variations

  • Technically, Chicken Florentine is just chicken and spinach in a cream sauce served over rice or pasta.  Thus, the other vegetables in the sauté are “optional”.  Same with the goat cheese.  I loved how they all combined in the dish I made, but feel free to simplify as your wallet and palate dictate!
  • I love baked pasta dishes because the time in the oven gives me time to relax, talk to guests, make a salad and/or do some dishes.  If you prefer, I’m fairly certain you could combine everything as described above and just serve as is without baking.  You might want to make the cream sauce a bit thicker (it thickens up a bit in the oven).
  • For those of you cutting calories, if you add a bit a water to the sauté and stir the goat cheese into the warm sauté after everything else is cooked, you should have enough of a “sauce” to serve over the pasta without making the cream sauce at all.

Enjoy!

Copyright © 2010, Lucinda DeWitt


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