Asiago Chicken Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Spinach – chicken breast sautéed with garlic in a delicious Asiago cheese cream sauce, perfectly complemented by spinach and sun-dried tomatoes! Comfort food made with fresh ingredients.
Short pasta, such as penne, is perfect for creamy recipes like this one. Asiago cheese cream sauce perfectly coats every single pasta bite. Both pasta and chicken are literally drowning in the Asiago sauce deliciousness! This recipe can easily be made gluten free by using gluten free brown rice penne.
If you are a cheese connoisseur, you might be quick to recognize all the difference varieties. However, some cheeses may seem too similar, especially those that look exactly alike.
Romano, Asiago and Parmesan cheeses are all white, crumbly cheeses that are commonly used in Italian dishes. While Romano and Parmesan cheese are similar to Asiago, each has its own distinct flavor that can spruce up a dish.
Romano cheese is actually a class of cheeses that are hard and salty and are primarily used for grating. The most common of these cheeses is Pecorino Romano. This is a sheep’s milk cheese that is aged for up to a year. Most of its production is based in Sardinia, Italy. The taste is often sharper and saltier than Parmesan. Pecorino Romano is great on pasta, soups and salad.
Grated Parmesan cheese is grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is a hard, white cheese that was originally produced in various Italian provinces, including Parma. Parmesan has a nutty, rich flavor that is delicious on pizza and pasta. The term Parmesan can be used for cheese similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano outside of the European Union. But the full name, Parmigiano-Reggiano, is primarily used within the European Union.
Asiago cheese is an Italian cow’s milk cheese that has a flavor reminiscent to Parmesan. However, this is a bit nuttier and creamier. Fresh Asiago is actually semi-soft and mild flavored. When it is aged, for upwards of 9 months, it develops a sharper flavor. Asiago cheese can be eaten alone or grated on pasta, pizza or salad.
Sun-dried tomatoes can be used in salads, pastas and countless other dishes where you desire a punch of intense tomato flavor. A nice idea is to chopped them up and use as an extra topping for traditional Caprese salad (aka tomato mozzarella salad). The flavor of sundried tomatoes is intense so don’t go overboard.
Sun-dried tomatoes provide a concentrated punch of that extra sweet flavor that comes from a perfect August tomato—a welcome reminder of sunnier days to come.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of sun-dried tomatoes out there that don’t deliver. Look for dry-packed ones that are still a bit moist and deep red, those are your best bet. Skip any that are so dry and brown that they are practically collecting dust. Otherwise, the oil-packed variety can be a good pick. But choose the kind that are packed in olive oil and are free of added herbs and spices, which can mask the tomato’s flavor.
Did you get a dry-packed variety? You’ll likely have to hydrate them in a bit of warm water for a few minutes until they plump up. The oil-packed ones just need to be drained.
Also, be sure to grate the cheese correctly! I’ve made a lot of mistakes like this before, and it usually happens when I pile the cheese instead of spreading it out on the pan/pot. If this happens just keep the heat to medium low and stir until the cheese melts. You can also add the cheese in 2 portions, adding the second half after the first has melted completely.
- 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes with oil (2 tablespoons)
- 1 lb chicken breast, sliced in half, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup half and half (I use nonfat)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup Asiago cheese, grated
- 8 oz penne pasta (use gluten free brown rice penne, for gluten free version)
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- Use sun-dried tomatoes in oil - if sun-dried tomatoes are too big, chop them into smaller bites. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil with sun-dried tomatoes and minced garlic on medium heat.
- Heat sun-dried tomatoes (cut them) in two tablespoons of olive oil and chopped garlic on medium heat. Add chopped chicken breast to the sun-dried tomatoes and oil - generously season the chicken in the skillet with salt and paprika. cook chicken until it's cooked through completely.
- To the same skillet with chicken and sun-dried tomatoes, add 1 cup of half and half and 1/4 teaspoon salt - bring to boil. Add grated Asiago cheese and stir for about 30 seconds to melt the cheese. Reduce the heat from boil to simmer and continue stirring to make sure all the cheese melts. At this point, if the sauce is too thick, add another 1/3 cup of half and half and stir. Taste the sauce - if 1/4 teaspoon salt was not enough, add more.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, rinse.
- Add cooked and drained pasta to the sauce. Add spinach, mix everything - cover with the lid and let the pasta sit to allow spinach to wilt, on low simmer. After spinach has wilted, stir everything together to combine, taste and add more salt or other seasonings, if needed.