IMG_5204Vacations are always fun times, but this one is a little bit more special. Trevor and I are celebrating seven years of marriage in the very same place we got married on North Topsail Beach, just outside Wilmington, N.C.

He’s such a great partner in life and an awesome father. I’m one lucky mama. So sappy, but so true. We’re not big on presents, but he got some beautiful lilies and blue hydrangeas (my favorite) and I got him some tasty craft brews from Fermental (a great beer store in Wilmington to hit up if you’re into that kind of thing).

Our anniversary was a fun day spent golfing for him and shopping for me. We met up later for an afternoon at the beach with the kids. Since we both had busy days, we wanted something easy, but delicious for dinner. This Chicken Mozzarella Pasta (originally from the Pioneer Woman) really hit the spot. It was a great play on Chicken Parmesan, but without all the breading and frying.photo-5

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My mom and I were scanning through recipes we both had pinned (how we pick our dinners on vacation) and figured out that we’d both pinned this pasta dish.

Some notes on this recipe: I used more chicken than the original recipe called for. I didn’t want to leave a partial package in the fridge. I also added some extra oregano because Trevor loves it (that’s what seven years of marriage does for you – you know he really likes oregano).

Read on for the recipe. 

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta

  • Servings: 4 adults and 2 hungry kids
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 lb. Penne Or Rigatoni (I used Cavatappi)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 whole large onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar good quality marinara sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into medium cubes
  • 1/4 cup parmesan shavings
  • 12 whole basil leaves (chiffonade)

Instructions:

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Allow to cook without stirring for 2 minutes, or until golden. Stir chicken around to brown on all sides. Remove to a plate.

In the same skillet over medium-high heat, add the onions and garlic and stir immediately to start cooking. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deep golden.

Reduce the heat to low and pour in the marinara sauce, red pepper flakes, and the water. Stir until the onions and garlic are mixed in, then add the chicken back into the pan. Add the parsley and oregano, stir to combine, then allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 7-8 minutes.

Make sure the sauce is bubbly and very hot, then gently stir in the mozzarella. Let it sit, undisturbed, for 2 to 3 minutes, until you can see that the mozzarella is very soft.

Drain the pasta and pour it onto a platter. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Immediately sprinkle on 1/4 cup Parmesan shavings (or grated Parmesan.) Pour on the sauce, sprinkle with extra Parmesan and the chiffonade of Basil, and serve immediately!

* NOTE: The mozzarella should be very soft but should still be in visible chunks rather than distributed throughout the sauce. It’s better for the chunks to be on the firm side than the falling-apart side! You can always heat it a little more to get the cheese to the consistency you want.