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Mediterranean Penne with Sundried Tomatoes, Kalamatas, Capers and Fresh Mozzarella

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Mediterranean Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes, Kalamatas, Capers and Fresh MozzarellaThis is pasta with spirit.  It’s essentially a melding and blending of flavors that grab your tongue and say, “Open up!  This is what it feels like to really live.”  Olives seem to be a love them or hate them kind of food.  I am constantly surrounded by people (including my sweet sisters and a best friend who thankfully grew out of her repulsion) who proclaim to despise olives.  I love them all black, purple, green, etc.  Nicoise are my favorite, but my eyes still close to fully experience the blissful joy of a Kalamata as well.  In general, I like food with zest – not the outermost portion of peel on a citrus fruit – but the sparkle of food.  That’s generally why I don’t like white sauces and why I’m fanatical about vinaigrettes and anything marinated, brined, salted, or citrused.  Speaking of which, I’m in a sparkles phase, in retaliation to the fleeting sunshine and warmth of summer.  So if you see me out wearing sparkly eyeliner and a dusting of glittered powder and think “What in the world?”  It’s my personal attempt to combat the approaching winter solstice.  Laugh at me if you will, but I’m enjoying it.  Anyway, this recipe marries all the zest I could pack from the Mediterranean with a penne pasta, but if you’re looking to lighten it up, this would be lovely over leaves of fresh baby spinach instead.

There were marinated artichokes, too.  I left those out of the title.  This recipe packs so much flavor between the sundried tomatoes, the kalamatas, the capers, and the aforementioned marinated artichokes, it doesn’t even require spices.  They’re already in the additions.  My husband would have chosen grated Parmesan Reggiano over the fresh Mozzarella, but I have a true and steady love for mozzarella, and often think of Parmesan as the bossy kid from fifth grade who’s always trying to steal the scene.  It has it’s place, but doesn’t always play well with others.  Also, we have the Dallas Mozzarella Company here and it’s simply in my blood to support the local purveyors.  Should you run across a local Parmesan manufacturer, please send me an email or post a comment!

Mediterranean Penne with Sundried Tomatoes, Kalamatas, Capers and Fresh Mozzarella

(feeds 4 with leftovers, who am I kidding at least 6!)

3 c. dried Penne pasta

2 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 sundried tomatoes in oil, drained then chopped

shredded chicken from two split breasts, about 4 c. shredded chicken

1/2 c. sliced, pitted kalamata olives

3-4 tablespoons capers

3 oz. marinated artichoke hearts (half of the small jar)

1 c. diced fresh mozzarella

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425.  Very lightly drizzle split breasts with olive oil, then sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.  Roast in oven about 50 minutes or until internal temp reaches 165.  Let rest to the side five minutes, then remove skin and bones and shred meat using two forks.  Reserve.

Meanwhile in a large saucepan, bring  water to a boil.  Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and penne.  Follow package instructions, to cook until al dente.  Drain, and reserve pasta.

In the same saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat.  Add garlic and tomatoes, saute for 4 minutes.  Add pasta, chicken, olives, capers, and artichoke hearts.  Stir to combine and let continue cooking for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, add mozzarella and continue stirring until mozzarella until it just melts.  Let your family/friends use finely ground sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, the flavors should already be leaping out of the bowl!