Our favorite pastas are those that come together in minutes but taste like they've been in the works for hours.
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With baby W all about the finger foods, it has become my mission to make delicious meals that all of us can enjoy. My first few attempts were pretty bland flops, but this one... man, this one is a keeper. The best part is, with a little bit of prep ahead of time on the chicken, this meal can come together in the time it takes to cook pasta (so about 6 to 8 minutes). Bdubs loved shoving fist-fulls of this dinner into her mouth and even wanted more after she cleared her tray. Needless to say it was well-loved by all of us.
Meal Prep Tip
I used to buy a big thing of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and use a couple for dinner and then freeze the rest. Not anymore. I line a baking sheet with foil (easy cleanup), put the entire package of chicken on there and toss with some olive oil and seasonings. Bake the entire thing off at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the internal temp reaches 165 and you've got chicken ready for the week, and thus for this delicious meal.
Some other quick weeknight meals that I use this chicken for include tacos, quesadillas, other pastas, pizza and wraps. Having the chicken already cooked saves so much time on these otherwise fairly quick dinners and it's seriously a life saver on nights where I don't have the energy to cook or am just distracted by a demanding 7 month old.
Baby Finger Foods Tip
Bdubs is seven months old and she is such a foodie like her mom and dad already. We started her on purees at 4 months and she very quickly showed that she had that chewing motion down and wanted to eat what we were eating - enter baby led weaning. We now do a combo of finger foods and purees for most meals serving vegetables, protein and carbs like toast/pasta as finger foods and then having a puree like apples or pears for dessert.
She does well with things cut into 2-3in strips although sometimes gets a bit ambitious shoving the entire thing into her mouth versus taking bites. So while these cute little pastas are potentially fine as is, they are kind of in that no mans land of sizes where they could potentially be a choking hazard if she were to decide to shove the whole thing in her mouth. So, we cut them down to more baby bite size pieces along with the tomatoes and chicken and made sure all the spinach pieces were small and not stringing as well. As always, be sure to constantly watch your baby when giving solids and make sure items are about pea size or smaller or cut into longer strips.
4 T unsalted butter
2 T chive cream cheese
1 T fresh basil (or fresh basil paste)
1 pint cherry tomatoes - halved
2 large handfuls of baby spinach - chopped
1/4 c. chicken stock
2 c. cooked chicken breast - diced
16 oz cooked radiatore pasta
freshly grated parmesan cheese for topping
optional - red pepper flakes (add after you separate some out for baby)
Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Whisk constantly for about 4-5 minutes as butter boils and foams. Keep the butter moving and watch it constantly as butter will go from browned to burnt in the blink of an eye. If you're not familiar with browning butter, here's a more detailed post with instructions from Serious Eats.
Once butter has started to brown, turn off heat and whisk in cream cheese and basil. It should continue to foam as you melt in the cheese. Once cheese has melted, stir in the tomatoes and spinach and turn the heat back on to medium-low. Whisk in chicken stock and cook on medium-low for 2-3 more minutes to let it reduce. Add chicken and pasta to the pan and stir to coat all the pasta evenly with the brown butter sauce.
Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.