I find that people have strong opinions on tomatoes. Either you’re ordering them on all your salads and sandwiches, or you absolutely hate them.
I used to be a total hater. I always loved salsa, and I liked tomato sauce as long as it wasn’t chunky, and I liked ketchup, although I’ve never been one of those people who goes crazy over ketchup. There are so many awesome condiments out there with so much more flavor! I’ve never understood the people that put ketchup on everything.
Like my husband. He puts ketchup on macaroni and cheese. WHAT IS THAT??? I will season the crap out of some meat, and we will sit down to dinner, and he grabs the ketchup bottle. What a jerk.
Anyway, I never used to be a tomato fan. My dad would order a caprese salad, and I would just eat the cheese. Not that this was abnormal behavior for me with any dish. All my friends still make fun of me about the way I used to eat. I would order food, eat until I started to get full, then proceed to pick all the cheese out. What can I say? I’ve always loved my cheese.
Somewhere along my healthy living journey, I turned the page on tomatoes. Now, I eat the whole caprese salad (or pasta), but the best part is still the mozzarella cheese.
In this pasta, the cheese gets just warm enough to get a little soft, melty, and gooey. I could have picked it out all night long, and lived on the cheese alone, but it was even better paired with the fresh basil, and juicy tomatoes.
This pasta takes everything I love about a caprese salad, and translates it to a full, protein packed, delicious dinner. It was so easy–ready in about 20 minutes, and my whole family loved it!
yield 8 servings
- 13 oz box whole grain penne (brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa, whatever you like)
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- salt and pepper
- 3 chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
- 8 oz part skim mozzarella, cubes
- 2 big handfuls baby spinach, stems removed
- 10 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
- Cook pasta according to package instructions.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, cook garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil until fragrant. Add cooked and drained pasta, and toss with remaining oil, vinegar and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add chicken, cheese and spinach, and gently toss until spinach slightly wilts, and cheese softens. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes. Serve immediately. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.