Yen's Rotini Pasta with Chicken, Grape Tomatoes and Baby Spinach
1 box of Rotini or fusilli pasta
1 Tbs kosher salt for the pasta water
1 container of grape tomato (red and yellow preferred), halved.
or 6-7 Roma tomatoes seeded and chopped into small chunks.
4T. olive oil for tomato + 3 T. olive oil for the chicken + 1 T. for the finish pasta
1 tsp salt + more if needed.
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves of garlic minced
pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional)
pinch of granulated sugar according to taste
1 large chicken breast or 2 small breast , slightly frozen before slicing into thin slices
1 tsp kosher salt, or slightly less ¾ tsp salt depending on how much breast you are using.
1 ½ tsp corn starch
1 small bag of ready to eat fresh spinach
5-6 fresh basil leaves, shredded (optional)
1. Fill a 5-6 quart pot with 2/3 full of water and let it come to a full boil. Do not cook the pasta until the sauces is completely or nearly cooked.
2. Slice the slightly frozen chicken breast at a 65 degree angle with a sharp knife. Slice into thin slices and then cut the slices in half to give you the perfect bite size. If you using frozen chicken breast, cover the frozen breast with a wet paper towel and using the defrost option on your microwave , microwave about 2-3 minutes before slicing. It should slice nicely. Dry your chicken slices thoroughly with a paper towel when you are done slicing.
3. Sprinkle the ¾ tsp of salt, 2 tsp of corn starch and some freshly ground black pepper over your chicken slices and mix well
4. Heat a heavy skillet to quite hot before adding 3 T. olive oil . Heat the oil ~1 more minute or so or until the oil just begin to smoke. Add the chicken slices to the pan and using a large spoon to move the chicken around in the pan to quickly brown the chicken pieces. As soon all the pieces have turned from pink to white. Turn off the heat and remove the chicken from the pan.
5. Turn the heat back on high. Add ¼ C of olive oil and let it heat up for ~ 1 minute. Add the chopped garlic and the tomatoes. Stir fry for about 2-3 minutes. Then turn heat down to medium and scrape all the pieces of the chicken residue off from the pan into the sauce, and let it cook covered for at least 4-5 minutes. Add 1 tsp of salt, freshly ground black pepper and the hot pepper flakes. Taste for saltiness, if the sauce tasted bland you should add a bit more salt, one pinch at a time until you taste the tomato flavor. If it is too sour, add a pinch of sugar to correct it. Cover the sauce with a lid and reduce heat to medium low and simmer for additional 4-5 minutes. Do not let the sauce go dry. If it looked a bit dry you can add a few tablespoon of water or chicken broth. This can be due to the juiciness of your tomatoes. If the tomatoes are not ripe or using end of the season tomatoes this can happen. It is preferred that you do not add any additional liquid to the sauce because it will dilute the flavor of your sauce. Controlling the temperature of your heat source is also important. Too much heat will also dry out the sauce.
6. In the mean time, turn on the pasta water and let it comes to a full boil again. Add 1 Tbs of salt to your pasta water. Once it comes to a full boil, add your dry Rotini pasta to the water and stir it well. DO NOT COVER THE POT. Turn down the heat slightly, but keep it in a boiling state. Cook the pasta until al dente ( al dente is at a state in which the pasta still has some resilience when bit down but not hard in the middle. It should not be mushy). Follow your box instruction on cooking time. NOTE: Never add oil to pasta water.
7. Pour the cooked pasta immediately to the cooked tomato sauce pan. Toss to cover the pasta well. You may want to add a few additional spoon of the pasta water to the sauce to keep the pasta wet. Add the cooked chicken slices, the spinach and drizzle additional olive oil and toss it well again. Pour the finished product into a large serving bowl and serve immediately.
Cooks Note: Make sure you have everything chopped up ready to go before you make the sauce. Olive oil has a lower flash point, therefore do not over heat. Turn off the heat and or remove from heat immediately if it started to smoke. Let it cool slightly before you add the garlic and the chopped tomatoes.
You can also add sausages ( not breakfast types, but more flavorful types from butcher or Adel, Amy’s etc. Must cook the sausages ahead of time before adding to the tomato sauce. You can also add fresh shrimp, cook it similarly as the chicken or various types of mushrooms (Cremini, shitake, oyster, or baby bella) if you prefer vegetarian.