April 25, 2013

Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake

 
It's been a bit of a frenzied week here in our house.  My daughter's fourteenth birthday party is this Saturday.  We have over thirty guests set to attend and I've been in my crazy party prep mode since the weekend.  (My poor children and husband know what I'm talking about ... don't ya, guys?)

I still have most of the shopping to do and a bit of housework yet to get done.  The always-present-the-week-before-a-major-party-event chore list has been posted on the fridge for several days ... color-coded according to each family member's respective day-to-day tasks for the week.  (I know ... my OCD really comes out in full force at times such as these!)  Since all of my children have their birthdays in the spring, we get ready for their parties and get much of our spring cleaning done all at the same time.  (It's a win-win for this mom!)


I'm taking a brief break, however, to share this wonderfully scrumptious recipe with you.  It's a very simple pasta bake that could be changed up to suit your tastes and to utilize what you have on hand.  Swap out the spinach for some blanched broccoli.  Add in some canned artichokes or fresh, chopped mushrooms.  Want to make it a little more healthful?  Use whole wheat pasta.

Yields 6 - 8 servings.


Ingredients:

10 ounces dry pasta (I used a combination of rotini, farfalle and penne. Any similar size would work.)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces chive and onion cream cheese
1 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
1 cup whole milk, heavy cream or half-and-half (I used half-and-half)
1/2 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 - 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 cups cooked chicken (cubed or shredded)
1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, cut into large chunks (I used grape tomatoes sliced in half)
Fresh basil or parsley, for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Coat a medium casserole dish with non-stick spray.  (Mine was a 10" round, but a 9 x 13 would work fine.)

Cook pasta in salted, boiling water to al dente.  Drain and set aside.

While pasta is cooking, heat butter in a medium saute pan set to medium heat.  Add in the onion and garlic.  Cook for 3 - 4 minutes to slightly soften veggies.  Do not brown.

Add in cream cheese and stir to melt.  Reduce heat to low.  Stir in sour cream, milk, Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes (if using).  Stir until everything is well-combined and melted.  Turn off heat.

Combine the pasta, chicken, spinach and tomatoes in a large bowl.


Add in the sauce and gently stir to coat.

Pour into the prepared baking dish.  (I drizzled in a little more half-and-half over the mixture once it was in the baking dish because it looked a little dry to me.)

Top with the remaining mozzarella.


Bake uncovered for about 20 -25 minutes ... or until casserole is bubbly and beginning to brown.  Top with basil or parsley for garnish.


NOTE:  In order for the pasta bake to not dry out, I place the baking dish on a sheet pan and add 1 - 2 cups of very hot water to the sheet pan once in the oven.  This will create steam during the baking process and will help to keep everything moist.


Slightly adapted from Saving Money Living Life.

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52 comments :

  1. This looks delish, so I'm trying it tonight.

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    1. It was fantastic. Everyone thought it was delicious and asked for the recipe. I'll be taking this to our next covered dish at church. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

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    2. I'm so happy that you all enjoyed it! :) Thank you for coming back by to comment! :)

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    3. This is a new favorite in my home. thank you

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  2. Oh My Angela ~ I so can't wait to try this....all my yummy ingredients....thanks for sharing....I've pinned....hope that works to get the recipe....my printer is outa ink! Best regards

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    1. Hi there. So happy you've stopped by! Hope you enjoy the recipe!

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    2. Hi Angela, I didn't read where you cooked the chicken first before putting it all together for baking. Or do you put the raw chicken in with all the other ingredients and then bake it. I really want to try this.

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    3. You can use cubed or shredded cooked chicken for this. I lightly cooked my chicken (seasoned with some salt and pepper) in a little olive oil. Then, you assemble the dish. So, the chicken does go in already cooked.

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  3. Looks delicious!!! Can't wait to make it!! Thanks for the recipe!!!

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    1. Thanks for visiting! Hope you find the dish super yummy!

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  4. I am so excited to make this!! What a great way to add some spinach and not have it noticeable to the kids!!

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    1. Hi there, Amy! I hope you all enjoy this! I've made it several times now ... changing things up a bit each time. I added in mushrooms the last time and have used frozen spinach once, too!

      Angela

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  5. I made this dish twice. My family loves it. I made a couple of changes just because of what I had in my kitchen. The first time I made it I used a package of frozen spinach (defrost and squeeze it dry) and canned diced tomatos (without the liquid) and Ricotta cheese instead of the sour cream.
    The second time I added another Tbls. of butter and a Tbls. of flour to the cooked onion and garlic, on med low heat cook the flour for 2-3 minutes add the milk (skim) and bring the heat up to a boil turn heat down to low add cheese to blend I added extra milk so my cheese mixture was smooth and pourable (I used fresh chopped spinach and tomatos the second time) It was a lot moister the second time and my picky eaters didn't complain about the veggies either time. Easy and fast dish.

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    1. I love that you have so enjoyed this! And, isn't it so great that a recipe can be changed up to your liking and what you have on hand! So glad that you have had success with this dish! Thank you for sharing your change-ups!

      Angela

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  6. Awesome, my wife couldn't stop saying how good it was. I added some sliced zucchini and fried them with the chicken for the last minute or so just till they got a little soft. It added a nice texture to the meal. I've already been told that I'll be making it again when friends come to visit. Great recipe

    Mike

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    1. Hi there, Mike. Thank you for stopping by to leave your feedback! I so appreciate it! And, I'm super thrilled that you and your wife loved the dish! Thank you!

      Angela

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  7. My entire family loved it! I used a mixture of shredded cheeses and a precooked chicken from the store to save time. Loved the spinach, tomato and artichoke combination. The kids are asking when I'll make it again! Thank you!

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  8. Just made this recipe...added mushrooms and omitted tomatoes - DIVINE!

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  9. I made this on yesterday. My boyfriend and kids loved it. They have requested it again. Thanks for sharing. I am looking forward to trying some of your other recipes
    .

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  10. This was AMAZING! Alot of work but worth it! It tasted almost like I was at a restaurant :-)

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Ashleigh! :)

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  11. Found your recipe on Pinterest and tried it last night. This is seriously delicious!!! I've tried lots of recipes from Pinterest and this is in the top 3 for sure. I added mushrooms, but made everything else as listed. My husband gave it a "10" and my 2 year old daughter gobbled up 2 helpings!

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    1. Hi there, Danica. That is awesome that you all loved the recipe. That always makes me so happy to hear! And, for a two-year old to eat two helpings ... so cool! :) Thank you so much for your feedback!

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  12. do you find preparing and leaving in fridge to cook later, causes problems?

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    1. I'm not sure. I would think it would be fine ... maybe add just a little more moisture to the dish, if needed, since it may dry out a little (pasta absorbing the liquid) while sitting in the fridge. You can always add a little more cream (or milk) when you put it in the oven if it looks like it got a little dry. :) When I make macaroni and cheese in advance, I know I always make the cheese sauce a little thinner so that it won't dry out. Hope that helps.

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  13. Is there a way to make this freezer friendly?

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    1. I am not sure how this holds up in the freezer, Andrea, as I have not tried freezing it yet. I know there are many "pasta bakes" available in the frozen foods section at stores, so I wouldn't see why it wouldn't hold up well. The only thing you could do is try it. :) If you do, I'd sure love to hear how things go. :)

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  14. Made this yesterday for lunch for me and my best girlfriend! It turned out perfect and just like your pic! It was absolutely delish! Was going to make something else for dinner but my mother stopped by and I reheated and we had it for dinner too! My hubby enjoyed it as well. Served with a fresh tossed salad and crusty wheat rolls. Will be making again. Thank you!

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    1. Just saw your comment ... so happy you all enjoyed the recipe! :) Thank you!

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  15. This looks delicious. If I wanted to make this before hand and then put in the freezer for a later date I would do all the steps except baking and just put it in the freezer, correct?

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    1. I haven't tried freezing it, so I am not 100% sure. My theory would be to not cook the dish prior to freezing. If I were trying the freezer method, I would prepare the dish (but not bake it), allow it to fully thaw prior to placing it in the oven and keep an eye on things to make sure it doesn't need any milk/cream added as it bakes. If you do try freezing it, I'd love to hear how things turn out! :)

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  16. Thank you for this recipe! I made it last night and hubby went back for seconds! And he asked for it in his lunch today! I used 100% fresh/raw/organic ingredients so it took a little longer but oh my gosh is it worth it! I give this recipe 5 stars!!! And the sauce? Oh my gosh I could drink the sauce!!! LOL Or... better yet... use it on steamed veggies, or spaghetti, or oh my gosh pork sausage! This recipe is the best!!!! I love it! And yes, I'm going to try freezing it, it should be fine. I've got a food saver and I'll just pull it out of the freeze, drop in some boiling water and presto chango I've got dinner!

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    1. Yes, the sauce is so, so good, isn't it? I'm so thrilled you and your hubby enjoyed this dish. And, I've always wanted a food saver ... so jealous! ;)

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    2. My dad got it for me. He knew how much I can, dehydrate and freeze and he love's his. Yes, it's expensive but once you have one, you'll thank yourself over and over and over. I can't "can" this sauce because of the milk and butter, but... I can "freeze" it, so I will just make the entire casserole and freeze it, or just make up the sauce (to keep on hand) and freeze it to use when ever I want to try something new. Hmmm. Wonder if I could dehydrate this some way?.... ;-)

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  17. I really enjoyed this!! I am not a fan of tomatoes so instead i cut up half of a red pepper and also asparagus and added those in and it was a huge hit last night for dinner!!

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    1. Those switch-ups sound delish, Malinda!

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  18. I used half and half and greek yogurt and it turned out very watery. It still tastes fine, just not quite right. Any idea of how to fix this without adding all the calories?

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    1. Did you still use the cream cheese? I'm not quite sure what went wrong for you ... maybe just use less liquid next time? (And, make sure your pasta is drained well, too.) :) If you used fresh tomatoes, maybe yours were especially juicy? I have never had an issue with the dish being watery. Wish I could be of more help to you!

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  19. This was excellent!! My kids asked for seconds which is rare when I try something new. Thank for the recipe!

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    1. Awesome. So glad it was a hit! Thanks for visiting and leaving feedback! :)

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  20. I'm so excited to try it it's on the oven as I type it was so fun to prepare thanks
    Xoxo

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  21. Thanks for this recipe, it was delicious! I had been in a cooking rut and this was a great way to repurpose ingredients we generally have around the house. My husband said it was one of the best things I've ever made!

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    1. Awesome, Erika! So glad it was a hit! Thanks so much for leaving feedback. It's always so appreciated. :)

      Angela

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  22. My family DEVOURED this tonight!!! I made a double batch so I could freeze some for another night, but everyone kept going back for more. Good thing I did make double! I added a container of chopped mushrooms in with the onions/garlic and I added some dried basil and parsley to the sauce. Flavor packed! I can't wait to have it again!

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    1. All of your add-ins sound amazingly delicious! I'm thinking I need to make this again soon ... it's been far too long. So glad you all enjoyed it. :)

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  23. Looks really nice. Will try it over the weekend

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  24. Just tried it tonight - it was wonderful! Thanks so much for the recipe!

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  25. Great recipe. My family and I loved it.

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