Orzo with Chicken, Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomatoes

I conducted a little bit of an experiment. Growing up we had an Italian restaurant we'd go to for special occasions. They had a pasta special that had chicken, artichokes, and sundried tomatoes. The sauce was lemony and tangy. It was one of my favorite dishes and I never branched out always ordering the same thing. In the throes of pregnancy cravings I thought about this and bought a jar of artichokes on my last shopping trip. I turned to the internet for a little guidance "googling" my ingredients. Unfortunately, most of the results involved heavy cream and loads of butters, mayo, and other not so good stuff. I remember this dish being light so I decided to play it by ear. I'm thrilled with the results. It truly is a restaurant quality dish for $1.45 a serving. I had bought some orzo at the market on my last trip because it is a deceptively filling pasta. It looks little and unassuming. The box even says that the 1lb of cooked pasta in it will feed 6-8. So not true! The box stretched over two meals with plenty of leftovers. It easily made 6 servings per meal. 

Orzo with Chicken, Artichokes & Sun Dried Tomatoes ($8.69 for the recipe- $1.45/serving)
(serves 6)

1/2 of a 1 lb box of orzo (I cooked the entire box so that I could use the leftovers in my Bacon Cheddar Brussel Sprout Bake the next night. I strongly recommend it.) box is 1.07- 1/2 box is .54
2 large chicken breasts (I froze these out of a family pack 2/bag- they were roughly 1 lb combined. $9.83 for a pack of 7 makes them $1.40 ea) 2.80
1 16oz jar marinated artichoke hearts- I used Cento, they have a tasty marinade & good prices $2.69
3.5 oz or so of sun dried tomatoes (mine were homemade from CSA cherry tomatoes last summer- Alessi has some bottled ones that are available in the ethnic aisle for $4/7oz) $2
1 lemon .33 (on sale this week)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup white wine (You could use chicken broth if you didn't want to use wine.)
2 TBS half & half (1 TBS=.5oz, 64 oz = $3.75, .06/oz) .06
3 TBS butter, split (2.99 for 4 stick pack, .75/stick, 8 TBS/stick = .09/TBS) .27
2 TBS olive oil

1. In a stockpot start water boiling for the orzo.

2. In a pan over medium heat, place 2 TBS olive oil, 1 TBS butter and chicken breasts. 

When the chicken has turned opaque on one side (about 5 minutes on medium heat), flip it and add 1/3 cup of white wine and the minced garlic. The chicken breasts I used were really thick so it takes at least 5-7 minutes per side. At this point your orzo water should be boiling. Add a tsp of salt to it and add the orzo to it. Be sure to give it a stir occasionally or it will stick to the bottom. Set your timer for 8 minutes.

Squeeze the juice from half a lemon into the pan and add the sun dried tomatoes. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.  I wash the lemon first and toss the entire squeezed half in so that a little more flavor will cook out. When the timer goes off on your orzo shut the burner off. Leave the orzo in the pan with the cover on. It will continue to cook a tiny bit in the hot water and will stay warm. 

Pull the chicken out and chop it into cubes. I split the breasts horizontally first then chopped it into cubes.  At this point it will be very moist and juicy and the juices should run clear. Toss it back into the pan. 

I drained the marinade from the Cento artichokes into my pan to add a little more flavor. 

 Then it's time to chop the artichokes up into little pieces.

Add them into the pan with the chicken and sun dried tomatoes. Make sure to mix them all up so that the flavors "marry". You want to add in 2 TBS of butter, 2 TBS half and half (or cream) and the juice from the other half of the lemon at this point. If you had placed the lemon carcass in the pan before pull it out. This creates the sauce for your pasta.

You can go ahead and strain your orzo now. If you cooked the whole box like me so that you could use the extra for another meal set half of it aside. 

Add the orzo to the chicken, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, and sauce. Mix it all together. 

Serve immediately. This is a tangy lemon-y dish. Add some grated parmesan to cut the acidity if you so desire. Enjoy!

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