Pasta dish makes weeknight dinner special

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Delicious Tuscan chicken pasta is easy to prepare. Lisa Boykin Batts | Times
Delicious Tuscan chicken pasta is easy to prepare. Lisa Boykin Batts | Times

Most nights now, I’m cooking for just Reggie and me. That means I’m not planning in advance as much as I used to; sometimes we are very happy to eat bacon and egg sandwiches for dinner. Easy to prepare, easy to clean up!

Our empty nest also means I’m experimenting more. It’s easier to cook for two people’s likes and dislikes, rather than four people’s!

Last week, we went to the library for some new reading material. I came home with several cookbooks, including “Delish: Eat Like Every Day’s the Weekend.”

If you follow any social media sites, you’ve probably seen Delish recipe videos for dessert and dinner ideas. The step-by-step video instructions make you want to rush out to the store, get the ingredients and come back home to cook.

The cookbook, released last year, makes you want to cook as well! The full-page images of spinach artichoke pretzels, sloppy Joe grilled cheese, chicken parm burgers, birthday cake banana bread and giant Twinkie cake will make your mouth water.

For last week’s dinner, I was looking for something simple that wouldn’t cost too much. I debated several recipes in the book, including the very popular marry me chicken and Italian mac & cheese.

I decided on Tuscan chicken pasta. This delicious recipe includes chicken, of course, as well as bacon, tomatoes, fresh spinach, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese, all mixed with angel hair pasta.

The instructions are very easy to follow. While the pasta cooked, I started cooking the chicken. Once it was cooked, I warmed some microwave bacon in the same skillet. It only takes a few minutes to make the sauce and pull the recipe together.

I was so excited about this dish and couldn’t wait to try it. In fact, I didn’t wait for dinner. I started sampling it before Reggie got home — just to make sure it was seasoned correctly!

The results were just as good as I expected. We both loved the flavor and the textures. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the bacon, but I really did!

Tuscan Chicken Pasta

12 ounces spaghetti or angel hair

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or about 1 1/4 pounds (I bought thinly sliced chicken and a little less than 1 1/4 pounds)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

6 slices bacon (I used microwave bacon and warmed it in the skillet until it started to brown and get crisp)

2 cloves garlic

2 cups diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)

3 cups baby spinach

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Freshly torn basil, for garnish

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook until golden and no longer pink inside, about 8 minutes per side. Let rest 10 minutes, then thinly slice.

Meanwhile, in same skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy, 8 minutes. Drain on a paper towel–lined plate, then chop. Pour off half of fat from skillet.

Add garlic, tomatoes and spinach to skillet and cook over medium heat until fragrant and slightly wilted, 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add heavy cream, Parmesan and 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water. Simmer 5 minutes.

Add cooked pasta and toss until fully coated, then add chicken and bacon and toss until combined. (For a looser sauce, stir in more reserved pasta water.)

Garnish with basil before serving.

“Delish: Eat Like Every Day’s the Weekend”