With a no-cook creamy pasta sauce, and a few ready-to-eat ingredients, the entire dish comes together in twenty minutes. It’s perfect on nights you don’t have much capacity to cook!
I’m a mega pasta lover – and, as a nutritionist too, I love it when meals are not only tasty and satisfying, but nutritious and balanced. This pasta dish offers great nutrient diversity, being a good source of non-starchy vegetables and protein-rich chicken per serving.
Ricotta. A cheese with a distinctively creamy, yet light, flavour. Ricotta consistency can sometimes vary based on where you are in the world – you’re after a soft ricotta here.
Pesto. While I love making homemade pesto, sometimes we don’t have the time! It can be great to keep a pre-made jar in the kitchen, as it goes well with so many meals. You can often find pestos in the pasta sauce or chiller section of the supermarket.
Pasta. I recommend penne, which are cylinder-shaped pieces with ends cut at an angle. Sub for gluten-free if that’s your dietary preference.
Pre-cooked smoked chicken. On busy nights, I’m all about using precooked ingredients to save time, and smoked chicken brings incredible flavour to this dish. You can often find it in the chiller meat or the deli section.
Brown onion. My go-to cooking onion! Sautéing will concentrate the onions natural sugars, bringing natural sweetness to the dish.
Baby spinach. A super palatable leafy green. This recipe calls for a 120g bag, which will seem like a Mount Everest amount of raw spinach, but I promise it cooks down to a seemingly piddly pile!
Courgettes. Cut into thick matchsticks (about half the size of a penne pasta piece) before sautéing.
Lemon juice. To brighten and freshen.
Salt + pepper. To season and flavour.
Don’t have smoked chicken handy? Feel free to in substitute in precooked shredded deli chicken.
Here are tips to help your kitchen flow:
Pasta weights can vary by different types/brands. For this dish opt for around 350g dry pasta or 4 cups total. Your packet will state on the Nutrition Information Panel how many grams of pasta a serving is. As a good rule of thumb, pasta approximately doubles in size when cooked!
Use a large deep-fry pan with a fitted lid to help your spinach steam and cook speedy.
Reserve some pasta water. The starchy water helps thicken the sauce and bind ingredients together.
Play around with your seasonings i.e. the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Use more or less until it taste just right to you.
This dish is best eaten fresh. After a day or more in the fridge it starts to get a bit dry. If reheating dress with extra pesto and olive oil to reinvigorate!
Can You Make This Recipe Vegetarian?
Absolutely. As with many recipes on this website, there’s often wriggle room to tweak recipes to suit dietary preferences.
Simply substitute the chicken for two cans of rinsed precooked cannellini beans to make this dish vegetarian.
When the chicken is removed, this decreases the protein per serving, which is why it’s important to add in the beans.
400gsmoked chicken or cooked shredded deli chicken
250gsoft ricotta cheese
Juice of alemon
Small handfuloffresh basil leaves,finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups or340gdry pasta(regular or gluten-free)
Peel and finely slice onion into half moons. Cut top and bottom of courgette and discard, slice courgette into three chunks, then slice each chunk into thick matchsticks. Dice smoked chicken into small chunks.
Bring a medium-size pot of water to boil to cook the pasta.
Drizzle a large deep fry pan with a fitted lid with oil. Bring up to a medium heat.
Sauté onion for a few minutes. Add courgette and sauté for another few minutes. Add spinach and smoked chicken. Sauté for a few minutes, reduce heat to a low, then cover with the lid.
Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Remove ¼ cup of the pasta water (carefully! it will be hot) and keep aside. Drain the rest of the water and pasta through a sieve.
Mix together ricotta and pesto in a small bowl until smooth.
Once the spinach has wilted turn off heat in fry pan. Add pasta, ricotta-pesto mix, lemon juice, fresh basil and a few turns of the salt and pepper shaker. Mix well. Taste test and adjust salt and pepper until it tastes well seasoned to you.