One of my favorite restaurants is Olive Garden, how utterly generic of me right? Every birthday and anniversary, graduation or Mother's Day if given a choice I always went to Olive Garden. One such random meal I ordered my favorite meal - which i should interject was the only thing I ever ordered! - and I was told they had changed menus and they no longer had that item. Crestfallen I sputtered and fumbled trying to find something, anything from their menu as a close approximation. This is when I realized that Olive Garden was not in fact my favorite restaurant, but rather I was just a big fan of one dish! Since then I have discovered a new favorite dish there, which is similar to the following one, which is from my friend Meredith.
Tuscan Pasta with Pine Nuts
1 box whole grain farfalle or penne pasta
5 oz basil pesto
2-3 oz sun dried tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
salt & pepper
1 large chicken breast, grilled
Prepare the box of pasta as per the directions on the box. While the pasta is boiling drain the sun dried tomatoes if they are in oil. I find a paper towel helps here. Once drained, chop them up into bite sized pieces.
Salt and pepper a chicken breast and in a grill pan, on the outside grill, or whatever you have on hand grill it over medium high heat for about 12 minutes on one side, flipping and grilling for another 6-10 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Allow to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing into bite size pieces.
In a small skillet, over low heat toast the pine nuts until they are just golden brown. Your nose will tell you when they are done.
Once the pasta is done, drain it and place it back into the pot. Add all of the remaining ingredients and toss until incorporated. Garnish with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese if desired.