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Front Page - Friday, January 9, 2015

Cheesy Chicken Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes

Kay's Cooking Corner

Kay Bona

Hubby and I are starting out the new year with a move. Hopefully, and God-willing, our last move until we go to our Eternal home!

Not only are we moving, we’re also moving my mother into the house we’re moving out of – so, we’ll be moving the entire month of January. Literally! Please help us by praying for our strength and patience – of which we’ll need a “more than normal” supply!

So, with the remodeling in the house into which we’re moving being almost finished, I’ve been picking up sheetrock and cleaning cabinets, drawers, closet shelves, and the like. In other words, my body aches...

But that’s OK. I know it won’t be long before everything settles down and is running at a more normal pace.

One of the things with the re-model was a new cooktop. In fact, I replaced all of the appliances due to age. The oven had bent racks. (How does that happen, anyway?)

I love cooking with gas, and the cooktop I have now is gas, but the new house wasn’t exactly set up for a gas line to the cooktop area. The contractor said he could run one – it would just have to extend from the gas line at the fireplace in the den into the attic and then over and down the wall in the kitchen to the cooktop. Uh, no. That might have been safe – but it didn’t sound safe to me, so that idea was scrubbed. I’ve already had a house burn down, and once in a lifetime is enough!

Although there are some really nice electric glass top cooking ranges (I had one at one of my other homes), I wanted something different, so I decided to check out the Induction Cooktop. I found a Thermador Induction Cooktop that’s really cool. I mean – really, I will probably never miss gas cooking again.

I was at the house cleaning the other day, and there were two pans there. One of my sons had been staying there a bit and was using them on his outdoor stove, so I decided to check out my cooktop. I put the little eight-inch cast iron skillet on the cooking surface with about two cups of water, and turned the burner to high.

No joke, that water was boiling in about three seconds. Yeah, three seconds. Just like the irritating infomercial on TV, that water was boiling with a quickness! I moved the pan aside and “bravely and extremely quickly” swiped my hand across the cooking surface, and to my surprise, it was warm – so warm you wouldn’t want to keep your hand there, but not so hot it would burn.

All I can say is cooktops have come a long way. This induction cooking is crazy. I has a manual – a thick one – that I tried reading, but I think learning as I go will be easier.

There is one thing I did learn that I want to share. If you’re ever in a position to replace your cooktop, and you decide to go with induction cooking, know that not all cookware is compatible with induction cooking.

I sat the cast iron skillet on the cooktop, and it worked perfectly, but then I sat one of my older stainless steel pans (by older, I mean around 15 years old) on top of it, and it gave me a prompt that it didn’t recognize the pan.

That’s right. Induction cooking is based on magnetic forces and if a magnet will not stick to the pan, then the cooktop won’t know it’s there. Crazy, right?

The pan I used was a set of Wolfgang Puck Cookware hubby bought me at Sam’s at least 15 years ago. Actually, induction cooking wasn’t even around when Wolfgang made his first set of cookware! It has been a great cooking set, although I just use a few of the small pans now. Most of mine has been replaced with All Clad or Le Creuset, and both of those are induction ready, as are most other newer sets of cookware. Whew!

Now for the recipe. Last night, I made a great little pasta dish that was very tasty! 

When I sautéed the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic, I diced the tomatoes before sautéing, and then sautéed them until they were crispy (I guess most folks would say they were burnt). But they were really good because they were kind of caramelized.

Also, I used a sweet, smoky flavored paprika. The dried tomatoes I used were also flavored with a smoked paprika. It was yummy!

Cheesy Chicken Pasta

with Sun-dried Tomatoes

3 large garlic cloves, minced 

3-4 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, diced, packed with or without oil

Olive oil for sautéing

1 pound chicken breast tenders, cut into bite-size pieces

Sweet smoked paprika to taste

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup half and half 

1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded 

8 ounces penne pasta

2 tablespoon fresh, diced basil

1/2 cup Chicken broth (if needed) 

Salt and pepper to taste

Note: if using sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drain the oil before using.

In large pan, sauté garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil until tomatoes are caramelized and crispy. Remove from pan, leaving the oil, and add chicken tenders, salted and dusted with paprika and red pepper flakes; brown well. Remove from heat.

Cook pasta according to package instructions.

Add tomatoes and garlic to the skillet. Add half and half and cheese; bring to a gentle boil. Reduce to simmer and cook, stirring until sauce is creamy. Add the pasta. If it’s too thick, add some chicken broth. Add basil. Stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Caesar’s salad and hot bread.

Kay Bona is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at kay@dailydata.com.