Cheesy Chicken and Pasta Bake
Most people I know are busy. Like really busy. Baseball season for the kiddos is in full swing which means practice several evenings a week, or there’s swim team, or dance, or music lessons, or karate… or all of the above! And that doesn’t include the PTA meetings or work functions or…….whew. So a lot of nights we all have to choose between eating out or not eating. And eating out is fine but it can add up and often times is not as healthy. But what do you do when you don’t have a lot of time to spend on a homemade dinner that is going to make your family look forward to those 15 minutes when they can shovel it in (after sports and before homework)? This Cheesy Chicken and Pasta Bake is just the dish for exactly those kinds of nights. Quick, easy, inexpensive, and make ahead and reheat.
The shortcut of using a store bought fresh roasted chicken is the key. I buy about one a week and use it for a variety of dishes (on top of a quick salad, quesadillas, chicken and pasta, chicken sandwich on a Hawaiian roll, and sometimes maybe even a little bit to the dog. Just maybe. I’m not fully confessing here.)
To pull this weeknight dish together here’s the cast of characters. Most of these are items you’d probably have on hand:
1. Step one is simply butter a baking dish and preheat your oven to 350.
2. Then shred some of that chicken and set it aside. This is not one of those recipes where the measurements needs to be exact. A little more or less won’t matter.
3. Bring a big pot of water to a boil and add a good amount of salt. I like to add about a tablespoon. Then add your pasta and cook until al dente. Don’t overcook or you will have mushy pasta because remember it’s going to bake again later! Drain and set aside.
Cooked perfectly al dente (see box for timing but typically about 6 minutes). Soft but with some chew to it.
4. Add the cream, 1 1/2 cups of the shredded pizza blend cheese (reserve the last 1/2 cup for the top), all of the parmesan, the pinch of red pepper flakes and the chicken to a bowl and just kind of mix with your hands or a rubber spatula to combine. Add about a teaspoon of salt and mix again.
5. Spread evenly into that buttered baking dish…
6. Add that last handful of shredded cheese mix and bake for 30-35 minutes until brown and bubbly. You want the cheese to be melted throughout. If making ahead you can refrigerate the pasta at the step above and just bake when you get home for 30 minutes or so. Or bake ahead and then cook and refrigerate and rewarm later. I prefer to bake it right before serving for optimal freshness….but sometimes you just gotta do what you’ve gotta do:)
- 10 oz Cavatappi pasta (about ¾ of a box), or favorite pasta
- 2 cups shredded store bought chicken
- 2 cups pizza blend shredded cheese (Mozzy, provolone, Asiago)
- ¾ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Sprinkle of salt
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp
- Fresh basil for garnish (optional)
- Butter a baking dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add in the pasta and cook according to the box instructions for al dente. Drain.
- Add the chicken, 1 1/2 cup of shredded cheese mix, parmesan cheese, heavy cream, and pepper flakes to a large bowl and toss in the pasta. Mix gently to combine and season with a pinch of salt. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Top with remaining shredded cheese and bake for 30 - 35 minutes until bubbly and hot.