Tuesday’s special: Chicken penne florentine bake

Tuesday's special: Chicken penne florentine bake

Story by Tuesday Wustrack

I realized that even though I make new recipes for this column every week, I haven’t had a nice home-cooked dinner in a long time.

As students, we’re so busy with school, work, extra-curriculars and having a social life that it seems that food is low on the list of priorities. But eating a well-balanced meal at least once a week is important to staying healthy.

So here is my first one: chicken-penne florentine bake. I found it on the Kraft Foods website.

When I make pasta dishes, I usually start by boiling the noodles so I can multitask and prepare the other ingredients while the pasta cooks. Pour two cups of penne in a pot and cook it on the stove at a medium-high temperature.

While you’re doing that, cut thawed chicken breasts into bite-size pieces. The recipe calls for one pound, but use the amount you’d like or whatever you already have in the fridge. I only had two chicken breasts, but I wish I had used more. Three or four might be a better choice.

Next, pour sundried tomato vinaigrette dressing into a large skillet. Throw in the chicken bits and sauté for a few minutes. Once those are cooked through, add one cup of chicken broth and Neufchatel cheese. It’s kind of like cream cheese but tastes milder.

While that cooks, thaw out a package of frozen chopped spinach in the microwave. I put it in for three minutes.

Once that is done, drain excess water out and them add that to the chicken and sauce.

Drain the pasta and add it to the mix.

While the recipe doesn’t call for it, I thought that onion flavor would taste really good, so I just threw in a couple shakes of dried minced onion. You could add any spice or vegetable as well.

Pour half the mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top. Pour the remaining amount of the pasta mixture on top of that. To finish it off, layer on Parmesan cheese. Bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

What’s great about pasta recipes is that you can add almost anything to it. Include as much cheese, spinach and chicken as you want. You could omit any of those ingredients and add in anything else. For example, if you don’t like chicken, you could add beef or shrimp.

Not only did this recipe taste great, but it also will give me a few meals for the week. I don’t have to resort to microwave meals or fast-food anymore!