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.
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
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.