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July 10, 2017

Summer Pasta | Creamy Pesto & Rigatoni with Tomatoes, Grilled Chicken & Fresh Mozzarella

I love a good summertime pasta.  Or really, anytime pasta.  This recipe uses pesto in two ways - first, as a marinade for the chicken (which is great even without the pasta - so make an extra batch of the chicken, or make this pasta from leftover grilled pesto chicken) and second as the pasta sauce, paired with some cream to make a creamy pesto.  

This pasta comes together in 20 minutes (+ pesto making time, 5-10 min) making it a great quick summer dinner.  

The key to this pasta is adding plenty of pasta water from cooking the pasta to the creamy pesto sauce, and cooking the rigatoni in the sauce for a couple of minutes.  This method makes the pasta and the sauce become one - and so delicious.  

We made a big batch of Herb Garden Pesto last week.  Our herbs in the garden were going a little crazy, so we picked as much as we could and put it all into a yummy pesto.  Instead of just basil, we also used Italian parsley and chives, hence the name Herb Garden Pesto.  It was so delicious.  

Chives Hair

Herb Garden Pesto

4 cups of fresh basil
2 cups of fresh Italian parsley
2 cups of fresh chives
6 cloves of garlic
1 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

In a large food processor, start by chopping 6 cloves of garlic.  Add fresh herbs and whirl until finely chopped.  Add olive oil and blend.  Add parmesan, salt and red pepper.

Store in the refrigerator or freezer in Kitchen Containers.

Creamy Pesto & Rigatoni with Tomatoes Grilled Chicken & Fresh Mozzarella

1 box of rigatoni pasta
1 tablespoon of sea salt
2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup of pesto (for marinate)
3/4 cup of pesto (for sauce)
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup of cream
1/2 cup - 1 cup of pasta cooking water*
1 teaspoon of sea salt
4 ounces of fresh mozzarella

Here is a timeline instruction list to help with the timing.  I know it can be a tricky thing to time everything perfectly, so you can see exactly how this dinner takes about 20 minutes to make if the pesto is made ahead of time.  If not, allow about 5-10 minutes to make the pesto.

0 : Turn on the grill.

1 : Start pot of water for pasta.

3 : Brush chicken with pesto.

4-5 : Cut cherry tomatoes in half.

  6 : Put chicken on the grill.  (set timer for 5 minutes)

7: Add pasta to boiling water.

8-10 : Put pesto in the saute pan, add cherry tomatoes.  Cook for just a couple of minutes on medium.  Add cream and let simmer on medium.

11 : Flip chicken breasts.  (set timer for 5 minutes, again)

13-15 : When the pasta is ready, transfer it directly from the water to the sauce by using a Spider Skimmer   You can also dump it into a colander, but *be sure to reserve some of the pasta cooking water to add to the sauce.  Toss the pasta with the sauce.  Add about 1/2 cup of pasta water to the sauce and pasta.  Cook on medium/low heat for a couple of minutes.

16: Check chicken on the grill with meat thermometer.  Should read 145-150 degrees.

17-18 : Chop fresh mozzarella into cubes.  Slice chicken into thin strips.

19-20 : Add last bit of fresh pesto into the pasta and toss.  Spoon pasta into shallow bowls, top with slices of chicken and mozzarella.

Brush on chicken breasts as a marinade before grilling.

Start with a big dollop of pesto in a saute pan (reserve a coupe of tablespoons to add at the end), then add halved cherry tomatoes.  Cook on low for a couple of minutes.  

Add 1/2 cup of cream.

Add rigatoni directly from the water to the saute pan.  The Spider Skimmer is especially helpful for this.

Toss the pasta and the sauce.  The Tongs are especially helpful with this.

Cook the pasta in the sauce for 3-5 minutes on low heat.  By finishing the pasta cooking in the sauce with a little pasta water, the sauce will be absorbed into the pasta, and it will become one.  

Add a dollop of pesto at the end to add a little brightness.  Toss with tongs.

Slice the grilled chicken.

Cube fresh mozzarella.

Top pasta with chicken and fresh mozzarella.

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