Jazz up your pasta with chicken tenders, lemon pepper, fresh herbs and garlic.

I never get tired of chicken. I make a chicken dish once a week – usually roasted chicken thighs with various seasonings, or a recipe I call That Chicken Thing (chicken cooked in a covered casserole dish with vegetables). My daughter, bless her cotton socks, grew tired of her mother’s chicken a few years before heading off to college. Fortunately, she inherited her father’s British politeness, in which vehement dislike is expressed in the gentlest possible terms. I continued making chicken, but felt a little bad every time I placed it on the table in front of her. She ate it without comment but I knew the anguish she felt in her heart, or rather on her tongue.

I may be overdramatizing a little. She generally enjoyed my cooking, even if she didn’t like all the dishes, but I had such a warm glow giving her things she really enjoyed. She spent 20 years under our roof – which seems like an awfully short time now that it’s done – and I tried hard to make those years as full of joy as possible. (I’m not, as you may have noticed, a tough, loving parent. I’m more of a parent who goes swimming and eats ice cream because, well, it’s fun for me too. Who has said being a parent can’t be fun?)

However, now that she’s in college, I can treat myself to cooking chicken as many times a week as I want. My husband has no complaints about this as he also loves chicken and is happy to take the leftovers to work for lunch the next day. So I had the pleasure of coming across a recipe for pasta with chicken fillets, cherry tomatoes and basil (plus a small mountain of parmesan). I jazzed up the recipe with a container of spinach along with a few dashes of spicy lemon pepper. I liked that the recipe included whole chicken breast fillets, which I don’t prepare often because the thighs are more flavorful. However, chicken fillets are quick and easy to cook and a nice change from my usual roast bird.

Cook three cups of dry cavatappi (or pasta of your choice; I used a combination of cavatappi and penne rigate) in generously salted water. Drain, leaving just a little water, then transfer to a large bowl and toss with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter and a little salt. While the pasta is boiling (it should take about 10 minutes until al dente), you can start on the chicken and vegetables.

Start by sautéing two to three cloves of minced garlic in a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add a few dashes of salt and lemon pepper, then add a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets. Cook on both sides until lightly browned.

Open a 16.5-ounce container of cherry tomatoes and cut them all in half. When the chicken is browned, add the tomatoes along with two to three more minced garlics and a tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano. Simmer until the tomatoes are tender and wrinkly and taste to make sure you have enough salt. Then add ½ cup chopped fresh basil and a 5 ounce container of spinach – all of it. Even though it seems like way too much spinach, it cooks in minutes.

I should add a note here about the fresh herbs in this dish. I think they add a lot to this dish, but I know you may not have fresh herbs on hand. They’re out of season and you might not appreciate an extra trip to the grocery store just for these little green guys. I generally advise people to use what they have rather than buying more, so if you want to use dried herbs, add a teaspoon of dried oregano and a tablespoon of dried basil (or add just herbs to taste). Lemon pepper also makes a wonderful difference, but you can substitute it with plain black pepper and no one will suffer because they won’t know what they’re missing.

Once the spinach is tender, mix everything together and simmer over low heat while you grate a piece of fresh parmesan. (I grated most of a 1/3 pound slice and got about 1 cup grated cheese.) Pour hot chicken, cherry tomatoes and spinach over pasta with ½ cup grated Parmesan . Mix everything together until it’s nice and friendly. Consider adding more parmesan. Agree with yourself that this is a good idea. Tell yourself you’ll only add a little, then add another ½ cup, since that’s what you grated anyway. Generously dollop cheese on your hot, delicious pasta with flavorful chicken and healthy veggies. Ignore everyone who says chicken is boring. Sometimes it’s good to treat yourself.

Pasta with chicken, cherry tomatoes and spinach

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets

3 heaping cups uncooked cavatappi or penne

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1 16.5 ounce container cherry tomatoes, cut in half

½ cup chopped fresh basil

1 5-ounce container fresh baby spinach

1 cup freshly grated parmesan

Salt and lemon pepper to taste

Cook the pasta. Toss with a little salt and 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter. Put aside. Brown two to three cloves of garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the chicken fillets. Cook over medium heat until lightly browned on both sides. Add the sliced ​​cherry tomatoes with the rest of the garlic. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the tomatoes soften. Add salt and lemon pepper to taste. Add the fresh basil and the whole container of spinach. Mix and simmer over low heat for another five to ten minutes. Mix chicken, tomatoes and spinach with cooked pasta and ½ cup Parmesan. Serve with the remaining parmesan to sprinkle on top.

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