Updated: Feb 23
This is one of those dishes that I love because it really can be a "choose your own adventure" recipe. I pretty much always make this one exactly the same because I love it so much as-is, but you can swap out any of the veggies for what you have on hand to clean our your fridge or use up anything from your garden. It is also a sneaky way to pack in a lot of veggies for your day. Yes, as a grown adult I sometimes have to trick myself into eating my veggies. I am who I am.
My mom made up this recipe years ago. I don't know if it was based off of something she ate somewhere or not, but either way, it rocks. My version is a little different than hers now as my recipes tend to be evolutions from whatever they started as. But one of the best parts about this recipe, are the shortcuts I use (see recipe notes). It makes it the PERFECT weeknight meal because it comes together so quickly and without feeling like you need to mince your own garlic or marinade and grill chicken, it is ready in a snap. It is also a great dish for company since it comes together quickly and is very easy to double the recipe. Note that all of the measurements for the ingredients are approximate. Your zucchini may be bigger than mine- that's ok. Use what you have.
This pasta doesn't have a true "sauce." It is coated with a little bit of olive oil but then the mixture of warmed feta cheese and pasta water coats the pasta and veggies for a light but downright delicious alternative to your heavier pasta options.
Oh, and if you don't have chicken on hand, just throw in your protein of choice (Italian turkey sausage would be great!). Or if you're like me, you forget the chicken entirely every now and again and it's still delicious, satisfying and filling - and perfect for your vegetarian friend!
I make the recipe below for just my husband and me on the regular. I purposely make the 4 servings because the leftovers are awesome. I actually like eating it cold, but if you must reheat, do so in the microwave on low and stir often.
Let me know how you liked this weeknight classic!
Veggie + Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta (Makes ~ 4 servings)
8-12 oz. cooked chicken breast, cut into 2" strips (I like 2" strips of chicken about 1/2" wide)*
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4" wide half moons or wedges
1 yellow squash, cut into 1/4" wide half moons or wedges
1 TB minced garlic*
5-6 medium artichoke hearts (marinated or canned), chopped to similar size as zucchini
1.5 oz. sun-dried tomatoes (~1/2 the package shown above)*
2-3 oz fresh spinach, regular or baby (~ 3 handfuls)
4-6 oz. feta cheese
1/4 C. parmesan cheese (more or less to taste)
1/2 lb. rigatoni (or whatever short-cut pasta you have on hand)
Cook pasta according to directions on box. Reserve about 1/4 C. of pasta water before draining.
In a large, high-sided pot (I like to use my cast iron dutch oven), heat about 2 TB of olive oil over medium heat. When oil starts to shimmer, add zucchini and squash, tossing to coat in oil. Cook for about 2 minutes. Turn heat to medium-low if your oil is spitting.
Add chicken, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes to the pan, tossing to coat in oil. If there is not enough to coat everything, add a little more oil. Stirring often, cook another 3-4 minutes until the chicken is warmed through and your squash is softened (not mushy).
If your pasta is not done cooking at this point, turn off the heat of the pan with your veggies until the pasta is done.
Reserve your 1/4 C. of pasta water before draining, or use a spider strainer to transfer the pasta to the veggie pot. Drizzle pasta with 1-2 tsp. of oil, if needed, to keep the pasta silky and not sticking together.
Turn pan to low. Toss to incorporate pasta with the rest of the ingredients. Add spinach and continue to toss to wilt.
Sprinkle in the feta cheese and add 1 TB of pasta water. Continue tossing to melt cheese. The pasta water will help the cheese to coat the pasta. Add more water (1 TB at a time) to create a silky coating. You don't want it to be runny though.
Once feta is mostly melted (a few chunks will remain, that is PERFECT!), sprinkle in your desired amount of parmesan and toss one last time.
Serve up in a big bowl and dig in!
*Recipe notes + Variations*
Add a few shakes of red pepper flakes to spice it up!
Instead of rigatoni, use fusilli or bowtie pasta. Or you favorite gluten free pasta.
Swap veggies for anything you like or have on hand. Some ideas: butternut squash, mushrooms, kale instead of spinach, heart of palm instead of artichokes
Goat cheese instead of feta
Try less pasta and more veggies for a lighter meal that is still filling.
Chicken - I love Trader Joe's pre-cooked chicken. For this recipe, the regular grilled chicken breast is perfect and such a time saver. I keep a few packages in the freezer for quick dinners, including this one.
Garlic - I'm a big fan of the jarred, minced garlic. It tastes great and is such a time saver.
Sun-dried tomatoes - I prefer the julienne cut from the bag (you can find them in the produce area of your grocery store usually, but they will be on a shelf, usually near the jarred garlic!). I find the kind in a jar in oil is far too oily for this recipe. I get the plain, but they do have flavored kinds. Just make sure to read the package.