- 1-3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small jar (3-4 oz) sun-dried tomatoes in oil, or use 3-4 oz fat-free sun dried tomatoes
- 1 lb chicken breast tenders
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt (for chicken tenders)
- paprika (a dash)
- 1 c. half and half
- 1 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 8 oz. penne pasta
- 1 Tbsp. basil
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 c. reserved cooked pasta water
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- If using sun-dried tomatoes in oil (in a jar), drain the sun-dried tomatoes from oil, before using them! Reserve 2 Tbsp. of the drained oil for sauteing.
- In a large pan, over high heat, saute garlic cloves and sun-dried tomatoes in 2 Tbsp. of the oil from step 1 for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant. Remove sun-dried tomatoes from the pan, leaving the oil, and add chicken tenders, salted and lightly covered in paprika (for color) and cook on high heat for 1 minute on each side. Remove from heat.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve some cooked pasta water. Drain and rinse the pasta with cold water.
- Slice sun-dried tomatoes into smaller bits and add them back to the skillet with chicken. Add half and half and cheese to the skillet, and bring to a gentle boil. Immediately reduce to simmer and cook, constantly stirring, until all cheese melts and creamy sauce forms. The sauce will be thick. Add cooked pasta to the skillet with the creamy sauce, and stir to combine. Add 1 tablespoon of basil, and at least 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
- Add about 1/2 cup reserved cooked pasta water because the creamy sauce will be too thick (do not add all water at once – you might need less or more of it). This will water down the thickness of the cheese sauce and make it creamier. Immediately, season the pasta with salt and more red pepper flakes, to taste, if needed. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes for flavors to combine.
Source: Adapted from juliasalbum.com