Chicken Penne with Bacon and Spinach in Creamy Tomato Sauce

This chicken pasta with spinach and bacon in creamy tomato sauce is simply amazing. The DELICIOUS creamy sauce permeates every single bite of this dish! It’s as though all the ingredients here were made for each other! Very flavorful and creamy!
chicken pasta, whatsinthepan, spinach, chicken with bacon
Gluten-free? You can substitute regular pasta with brown rice or quinoa/corn pasta.
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Don’t like messing around with fresh tomatoes? Replace them with a can of diced tomatoes.
Prefer fresh herbs? Use fresh herbs instead of the dried ones! And if desired, you can also replace regular bacon with a turkey bacon.
Chicken, Poultry, Tomato, Penne, Creamy Chicken Penne, Tomato Sauce, Spinach, BaconYou can also use more spinach since it shrinks when cooking.
Chicken, Poultry, Tomato, Penne, Creamy Chicken Penne, Tomato Sauce, Spinach, BaconWhen you shop for chicken, the one that works best is without any added water. But if it’s the kind that has added water (and usually added sodium too) – make sure all water/broth is drained after cooking the chicken. Otherwise the recipe will turn out watery and will need to be thickened by additional cheese or even flour.
Chicken, Poultry, Tomato, Penne, Creamy Chicken Penne, Tomato Sauce, Spinach, BaconTo begin with you will need to start cooking the bacon in the oven (see instructions in the recipe box). While the bacon is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large deep skillet. Make sure that the chicken strips are sliced thickly before adding them to the pan (if your chicken is thin – you can also brown whole chicken breasts and slice them after they are cooked). Add chicken strips (or chicken breasts), generously rubbed in seasoning mixture, and fry on each side on high heat for a total of 4-5 minutes on each side. Resist the urge to move the chicken or check underneath while it’s cooking on each side, otherwise browning process might be messed up. Check after 4 minutes – if you like what you see, you can flip it to the other side. Add garlic only in the last minute of cooking just before the chicken is done.
Chicken, Poultry, Tomato, Penne, Creamy Chicken Penne, Tomato Sauce, Spinach, Bacon

Remove ½ of chicken from the pan. Also, make sure that all liquid, if any, is removed after cooking the chicken (depends on the chicken you use), otherwise the dish will be too watery.

Add chopped tomatoes to the remaining chicken and cook for 3 minutes on high until tomatoes release their juices. Add fresh spinach and cook until it wilts.
Chicken, Poultry, Tomato, Penne, Creamy Chicken Penne, Tomato Sauce, Spinach, BaconNow it’s time to add half and half and bring the mixture to boil. Reduce to simmer.
Chicken, Poultry, Tomato, Penne, Creamy Chicken Penne, Tomato Sauce, Spinach, BaconMake sure to bring the sauce to a boiling point before adding cheese.
Once cheese is added, stir on low-medium simmer until the cheese is nicely melted. The cheese needs to melt enough to create a creamy texture.
OLA_4812In the meantime bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta and cook it according to instructions. Drain the pasta, but do not rinse.

Add pasta and bacon and stir until fully coated in sauce. Season with more salt if necessary. Now it’s time to add the 1/2 of chicken that we removed earlier and slightly mix it in with the rest of the ingredients (I just pushed my chicken slices slightly into the skillet as shown below). Cover with a lid until ready to serve, to keep warm. Serve with additional shredded Parmesan and red pepper flakes, if desired.
Chicken, Poultry, Tomato, Penne, Creamy Chicken Penne, Tomato Sauce, Spinach, Bacon

Chicken Penne with Bacon and Spinach in Creamy Tomato Sauce

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Chicken Penne with Bacon and Spinach in Creamy Tomato Sauce

Recipe Source: Juliasalbum

Ingredients

    Main Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless and skinless chicken (thick in size, such as chicken breasts), cut up in 1 inch strips
  • 6 bacon strips
  • 5 medium tomatoes, chopped in cubes
  • 10 oz. package of fresh spinach
  • 1 cup half and half (half heavy cream/half milk), more if runnier sauce is desired
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (more for garnish)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz. penne pasta
  • Seasoning Mixture:
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (thyme, oregano, basil - combined), more if desired
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. BACON: Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Arrange bacon strips and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon. Transfer cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined platter that will absorb extra grease. Chop into 1 inch slices.
  2. CHICKEN: Cut raw chicken in thick 1 inch pieces, put it in a mixing bowl and rub in seasoning mixture. Add more seasoning if desired. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet. Add chicken strips (or whole chicken breasts if they are thin) and fry on each side on high heat for a total of 3-4 minutes. Add garlic in the last minute of cooking just before the chicken is done. If chicken is still pink in the center, reduce heat to medium and cook covered for several minutes until no longer pink in the center. Remove ½ of chicken from the pan (we want to keep it intact for later). Also, make sure that all liquid, if any, is removed after cooking the chicken (depends on the chicken you use), otherwise the dish will be too watery.
  3. TOMATOES and SPINACH: Add chopped tomatoes to the remaining chicken and cook for 3 minutes on high until tomatoes release their juices. Add fresh spinach in 4 consecutive batches until it wilts.
  4. CHEESY SAUCE: Add half and half and bring the mixture to boil. Reduce to simmer and slowly add grated Parmesan cheese - until the cheese melts and makes the sauce creamy. Remove from heat.
  5. PASTA and ADDING BACON: In the meantime bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta and cook it according to instructions. Drain the pasta, but do not rinse. Add pasta and bacon and stir until fully coated in sauce. Season with more salt if necessary.
  6. ADDING REMOVED 1/2 OF CHICKEN: Now it’s time to add the 1/2 of chicken that we removed earlier and slightly mix it in with the rest of the ingredients (I just pushed my chicken slightly into the skillet). Cover with a lid to warm up the added chicken, until ready to serve. Serve with additional shredded Parmesan and red pepper flakes, if desired.
http://whatsinthepan.com/2017/08/chicken-penne-with-bacon-and-spinach-in-creamy-tomato-sauce/

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12 thoughts on “Chicken Penne with Bacon and Spinach in Creamy Tomato Sauce”

  1. Olya, this dish looks absolutely amazing!! I can’t wait to try it!! Especially with some crusty Italian bread…yummm..thank you for sharing your recipe with us!! 🙂 I may be of German decent but I’m an Italian at heart..lol..

  2. This recipe looks great! I am very literal and follow recipes to the tee. When are you supposed to add back in the half of the chicken that you took out?

    1. Hi Jennifer. Thank you for noticing this very important omission. It’s added right after mixing in pasta and bacon at the very end in order to keep the texture of it intact, since we used the first half for flavoring the sauce. When I added it, I just pushed my chicken slightly into the skillet to warm it up and then served it on top of the pasta. I will update the recipe as well. Let me know how it turns out!

  3. Have you ever tried substitutingthe spinich with fresh basil? Is there any reason why it might not work or taste good?

    1. I’ve never tried it with fresh basil, but it should work. I do frequently substitute spinach with chard or baby chard – same texture.

      1. Fresh basil has a much more pungent flavor than spinach and I’m wondering if it would mask the delicious flavors of the chicken and bacon. I made this with spinach and it was absolutely out of this world.

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