Pasta with Mascarpone, Chicken, Tomatoes, and Spinach

Today, I had a major kitchen fail, involving strawberry shortcake cookies. So, today I’ll share something that I made before we went on vacation that was a bit more successful. I’ll be trying again with the cookies next week, hopefully with better results. I’m not writing them off yet, especially because the strawberries I’ve been buying this season have been amazing. I need to do something with them.

Anyway, this dish came about because I was really craving something with mascarpone cheese. Mascarpone is a thick, creamy, slightly sweet cheese that’s often the main ingredient in sweet items, like tiramisu. The first time I ever tried mascarpone cheese was actually in stuffed French toast many years ago. I’ve been in love ever since, and I’m always sad that I don’t see it used in more things. It’s pretty versatile, and can be used in savory dishes. For example, it makes a good substitute for ricotta in lasagna or can be melted down to make a sauce, as in this easy pasta recipe.

This is a good summer pasta, because it’s quick and easy to make (only took about 30 minutes). The sauce is very light and lemony—In fact, I think I would use slightly less lemon juice/zest the next time around because it overpowered the mascarpone just a bit. I could see the sauce being a nice complement to many other vegetables, like asparagus, or even squash in the fall.

Pasta with Mascarpone, Chicken, Tomatoes, and Spinach

By Deborah Mele

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Chicken breast (I think I used three), diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 container of grape tomatoes (recipe calls for sun-dried tomatoes, but I can’t eat those)
  • A few handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1 package of pasta
  • Olive oil
  • Salt/pepper to taste

What to do:

1.  Combine lemon zest, juice, mascarpone, and a bit of pepper in a bowl. Whisk to combine.

The cheese will come out of the container as thick as cream cheese, so make sure you stir it quite a bit to loosen it.

2.  Cook the diced chicken in the olive oil until it begins to brown. Add the garlic, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook   through.

3.  Cook pasta, taking it off the heat a minute or two before it reaches al dente (this is important since you’ll be putting it back over heat to combine the rest of the ingredients and you don’t want mushy pasta).

I like fun pasta shapes. This is Campanelle. It means "little bells" in Italian.

4.  Drain the pasta, but keep a bit of the water, in case you need to thin out the sauce.

5.  Return the pasta to the pot and place over medium heat. Stir in the cheese mixture, tomatoes, and spinach. Cook until hot. If the sauce seems a bit think, you can add a bit of the reserved water to thin it out.

6.  Top with grated cheese to serve.

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