My son loves pasta. Okay, let me re-phrase that. WE love pasta. Obviously it is the carb overload speaking, but whatever! My favorite way to eat pasta is a hearty pasta bake filled with chicken and vegetables, slathered in a garlicky tomato sauce. And of course, cheese. We need that cheese, don’t we?
I hate it when restaurants serve naked pasta. The menu says ‘this pasta marinara’ or ‘that pasta alla marsala’, then your order comes out, and you find a small bit of sauce on one side of the plate and a pile of dry pasta on the other. What’s with that, seriously? Am I supposed to put them together myself?
Now, we are supposed to eat for the seasons and all that. If blogs and food websites would have you believe, casseroles belong in winter, salads in summer and cookies around the Holidays. Ridiculous, right? I have been known to eat hot soups in summer, ice cream in winter and lived to tell the tale. Pasta doesn’t really have a season. I make this pasta bake throughout the year. Don’t believe me? Follow me on Instagram (@happyandharried) and you’ll see. That’s where I post my recipes instantly. So if you are curious to see what is cooking in my kitchen, you better follow happyandharried on IG.
Staying on the topic, this summer I came to know I was being stalked on Instagram. By none other than Mr.Happyandharried. I swear. I first had my suspicions when he mysteriously started coming home well before his usual time and going straight to the dining table. Apparently, he checks my IG feed in the afternoon to see what’s cooking. Isn’t that sweet? Glad to know I have the “way to a man’s heart blah blah” thing pat down!
Well, you cannot blame him, can you? This is one super easy and super comforting dish. Lightly browned chicken and mushrooms get tossed in a garlicky pasta sauce. I shamelessly use a bottle of pasta sauce or cook down some tomatoes depending on
how much time I have how lazy I’m feeling that day. The al-dente pasta gets tossed in this sauce and is transferred to an oven-safe baking dish or casserole. Stir in some cheese and parsley, toss more cheese on top and bake till bubbly and golden. I sometimes like to add a handful of breadcrumbs on top and broil it till crisp and golden. You can omit this step and simply bake till the cheese is soft and gooey, but sometimes I like the crisp topping. I find that small pasta like shells, elbow pasta or rigatoni is best in this recipe, but use what you like.
Don’t forget a glass of your favorite wine with this comforting dish. I am no sommelier, so we just go with whatever is in the fridge. Right now we are crushing on some beautiful local wine we picked up on a trip to the Texan hill country. As for the kiddo, he’ll have apple juice!
- Pasta - ½ lb (any small pasta)
- Butter - 3 tbsp
- Garlic - 3 cloves, finely chopped
- Chicken - 1 lb, boneless, cut into small chunks
- Button mushrooms - ½ lb, halved or quartered
- Salt - to taste
- Black pepper - a generous pinch, freshly cracked
- Dried oregano or basil - ½ tsp
- Tomato-based pasta sauce - a 24-oz bottle
- Fresh parsley - 3 tbsp, chopped
- Grated Parmesan cheese - ¼ cup
- Breadcrumbs - ¼ cup
- Shredded cheese - ½ cup (Mozzarella works well)
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg.F.
- Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta till al-dente. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat a large skillet. Add butter and allow it to melt.
- Add garlic and saute till fragrant.
- Now add the chicken and season with a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or till lightly browned on all sides. Remove garlic and chicken to a plate. Add the mushrooms and saute till wilted and lightly fried (you should have enough fat leftover in the skillet). Remove to the plate with the chicken.
- Now add the pasta sauce to the skillet and stir around, scraping up any browned bits of chicken at the bottom. Add dried oregano or basil and 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley.
- Add the cooked pasta, browned chicken and mushroom to the pasta sauce and mix well.
- Transfer to a 9-inch baking dish. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly on top. Top with the shredded cheese.
- Bake for 20 minutes till cheese is bubbly and breadcrumbs are golden. If you wish to, you can broil for the last two minutes to crisp up the top a bit.
- Sprinkle the last tablespoon of parsley on top, pile onto plates and serve immediately. This casserole can be refrigerated or frozen as well.
I have also made this pasta bake with chicken meatballs and it was dee-licious! Again, follow me on IG peeps. That’s were you will find all my crazy cooking as and when it happens! Let me see if I can remember to take pics for a blog post the next time I make them.
It is best to eat this pasta bake straight out of the oven, but the leftovers are not bad either. I packed it for the kiddo’s lunch one day and he made a best friend that day! It is so good. Try it!!
So, tell me, what’s cooking at your place? Do you like pasta? Have a favorite family recipe? Do share.
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