I recently discovered the miracle that is pasta water and it has changed everything. Well, it’s changed everything about making pasta. There’s a reason Bon Appétit calls it “liquid gold”: The starchy, salty water boosts the flavor of your sauce and completely changes the texture. It acts as a binder, thickening the sauce and making it silky-smooth.
Side note: I can’t remember if my dad used pasta water in our pasta sauces growing up, but I do remember him saving it for our plants. The vitamins and minerals are great for plants, but only if you haven’t salted the water.
Anyways, this pasta dish is a bunch of my favorite Italian ingredients in one pot. The chicken and the artichokes are nice and meaty (you could skip the chicken to make this vegetarian), and the sun-dried tomatoes and lemon juice add a zing. The creamy sauce created from the pasta water-cream-Parmesan trio is rich and delicious.
It’s quick and easy, and, other than the chicken, it comes together in one pot. It’s great with a cold glass of rosé the night of and makes great leftovers the next day. What more could you want from a weeknight recipe?
If you’re looking for more pasta recipes, try my Bacon Pea Parm Pasta or my Smoky Tuna Mac and Cheese.
Tuscan Chicken Pasta
For the chicken
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast or tenderloin
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the pasta
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 pound pasta such as penne or rotini
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 8 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
- 12 ounces marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 ½ cup reserved pasta water
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 ½ cups grated Parmesan
- 1 cup spinach
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- More salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. Rub chicken with oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place on baking sheet and bake for 12-16 minutes, depending on size and thickness of chicken, until meat is just cooked through. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in large stockpot according to package directions. Salt the water with 1 tablespoon salt and cook to al dente, or slightly chewy. When draining pasta, place colander over large bowl to reserve pasta water.
- In stockpot, melt butter over medium-low. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, artichoke hearts and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
- Chop chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to stockpot.
- Pour pasta into pot and give it a good stir to mix up the ingredients. Turn heat up to medium and add pasta water, cream and cheese. Add the liquids and the cheese half a cup at a time, stirring briefly before adding the next batch.
- Add spinach and stir, cooking until spinach wilts. Lightly squeeze half a lemon over the pot, stir and taste, adding more salt or pepper if necessary.
- Serve and garnish with parsley, a lemon slice or more cheese.