Weekends or mid-week, a good friend drops by and you get to talking and talking and talking and the next thing you know, it’s dinner time. Uh-oh! You haven’t been grocery shopping yet. What to do? Don’t upset the rhythm of your lovely leisurely visit by leaving the comfort of your home and heading to a restaurant (especially if that talking included sipping on wine or cocktails). Instead, if you have a well-stocked pantry with essential easy to throw together ingredients, simple, yet satisfying dinners are a snap such as this Baked Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Chicken & Ricotta.
I’ve written about pantry staples before but part of the fun of having this site is the joy in sharing ideas on what to include in a well-stocked pantry and then what to do with those ingredients.
My previous list of must-haves included:
- long grain white rice
- pinto beans
- canned stewed tomatoes
- peanut butter
- white flour for tortillas
- masa harina for corn tortillas
- frozen chicken breasts
- canned albacore
- olive oil
- seasoning including Knorr's chicken bouillon, dried oregano, dried basil, ground cumin, California chili powder, Spanish paprika, kosher salt, black pepper
- Trader Joe’s jarred sauces including basil pesto, sun-dried tomato pesto, masala and korma
- assorted Italian pasta shapes with an emphasis on penne and thick spaghetti
- cheese including parmesan, ricotta, mozzarella (usually fresh such as ovoline or buffalo), shredded mild or sharp cheddar, jack cheese and cotija (a Mexican hard, aged cheese)
- pine nuts
- vinegars including balsamic, red wine, apple, rice and white
Boil pasta in salted water to al dente. Drain, rinse under cold water and add to a large bowl. Tip: To prevent the salt from staining your pans with that hard to remove white ring, don't add salt to water until it's already reached a boil.
Add leftover cooked chicken, jarred pesto and pan toasted pine nuts. Stir to combine. Personalize it: Any leftover cooked meat will work. I've made this with both chopped steak and even chopped leftover pork chops. Or leave the meat out altogether and use canned beans – or not. The point is, don't be afraid to customize to your taste. As for the pesto, I've also used basil pesto and it's just as tasty.
Turn oven on and preheat to 400 degrees F. Coat the inside of your casserole dish with olive oil. Place a layer of the pasta to just cover the bottom. Sprinkle with parmesan.
Use a spoon to add dollops of ricotta.
This is olovine. It's a fresh mozzarello made from cows milk and comes packed in a brine. It's soft and has a creamy, milder taste taste than it's semi-hard counterpart that most people are familiar with. And even considering that it sits in a salt solution, it's actually less salty than it's counterpart as well.
Hand shred some olovine over the ricotta.
Add another layer of pasta and repeat the parmesan, ricotta, olovine steps.
Add the last layer of pasta, sprinkle with more parmesan and add the last of the olovine.
Bake in a 400˚ F. oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted and the top has a golden crust.
Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.