Caprese Chicken Pasta Bake

I love caprese salad.  It somehow makes my love of cheese seem healthy.  I mean there’s tomatoes and basil and balsamic vinegar. That’s healthy right?  What’s not to love?  It has fruit in it.  Yes I said fruit.  Tomatoes are technically fruit.  One of my favorite jokes…what is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?  Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.   Interesting fact:  the vine ripe pink tomato is the official fruit and vegetable of Arkansas.

I think cheese is one of the reasons I could never go completely off dairy.   I don’t think I’d miss the milk.  I don’t think I’d miss the butter.  But the cheese.  Yes, I would miss the cheese.   But back to my original point.  Caprese salad.  So the other day, I had some of the main ingredients for a caprese salad but needed something to make for dinner.  So I combined them all with a chicken breast and some pasta and made this “Caprese Chicken Pasta Bake.”  I baked it because I like to bake pasta…it gets a little crust on the outside. But you could easily skip that step and just eat the pasta.  Here’s what I did.

Boil corkscrew pasta until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

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Meanwhile, brown cut up chicken breasts in olive oil in a large pot.

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Add cherry tomatoes.

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Cook for about 10-12 minutes until chicken is cooked through and the tomatoes start to burst and cook into a sauce.

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Add cooked noodles (by the way, make sure you are using a large pot).

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Add pesto.

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Add diced mozzarella.  If you are using fresh, just be aware it has a high moisture content and you will wind up with a little liquid in your pasta when it is baked.  You can also use shredded mozzarella which will cut back on that.

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Mix to combine.  At this point you can eat it or place it in a casserole dish to bake.

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Bake for about 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees.

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Serve and enjoy!

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Recipe:
16 oz corkscrew pasta
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
16 oz cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup pesto
1 cup diced fresh (or shredded) mozzarella cheese

Boil pasta until al dente.  Drain and set aside.  In a large pot, brown chicken in olive oil.  Add cherry tomatoes and cook for about 10-12 minutes until the cherry tomatoes start to burst and create a sauce.  Add noodles, pesto and cheese.  Mix to combine thoroughly. Put pasta into a casserole dish.  Bake for 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees.  Serve and enjoy!

Caroline