All About Casseroles: Cheesy Chicken Pasta

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Three things I absolutely love: cheese, chicken, and pasta. Altogether - even better! Can you say delicious?! These are some of my guilty pleasures, when it comes to food. Well, recently I have devoted much more time to working in the home, and cooking is top on that list. Everyday things like dishes, laundry, sweeping, and cooking - It takes time, mind you, and can easily turn into a job of all it's own and literally take all day long, depending on the size of your home and family included.  Anyway, I've been more settled and content in my role as a wife and homemaker (while finishing school, and internship, and working - lots going on!) and with that, something that I used to dread doing --- figuring out a recipe for dinner based on what we have in the house, or cooking at all for that matter (Hamburger Helper and Jif Pancake Mix used to be my bff's...Anyone else?) is not that troubling for me anymore. I love this new perspective I've prayed for and now see by, and I know Marshall does too - a man needs to be fed well!
Enter my new favorite casserole dish. I learned from Erin that although I didn't know how to cook that well (my brother and dad did all the cooking growing up), it is so quick to learn. One word: casseroles. Just put everything in a pan, bake it together for a bit, and viola! You are done. Simple and easy. My kind of cooking! (At least for now) Definitely a Carolina thing, but I sure don't mind.
Today for our bible study group, it was time for the small group within that of which I belong to, to provide brunch. Was that a mouthful? Recall that my group is studying 1 & 2 Thessalonians, a study by Max Lucado. Our group of 12 or so fantastic military wives was on the rotation list to provide food for our breakfast/lunch buffet for our Thursday meetings/time of fellowship. Thursdays are my favorite. We cover all the bases: casseroles, meat, fruit, dessert, etc. I know there's more. There is always so much food! Thursdays I always eat so well. I saw the sign up sheet, looked at what was left, and decided to try it... Making a casserole. The word seems daunting, but the task is far from it!
 Here is what I made:
Ok, so it doesn't photograph well.. Food is hard to capture!
Trust that this dish is absolutely DELICIOUS!
Here is what you need: 

  • 1 lb (1 box) of pasta (Any kind.. I used 2 kinds of pasta since I ran out!)
  • 3 chicken breasts (Or more.. However much chicken you want!)
  • Half a jar of tomato pasta sauce
  • Half a jar of Alfredo sauce
  • 1/2 block of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or any amount/kind.. Your preference! Blocks of cheese are cheaper and so easy to shred)
  • Handful of spinach
  • Bread crumbs (or little pieces of tortilla as I used, since we are out of bread and I haven't gone grocery shopping yet)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Seasonings for chicken: Basil, Cumin, Etc (Your preference)
  • Butter (Lots of it! I think altogether I used 1 stick... in the pasta, in the sauce mix, on top of the dish to bake together)
  • Oil to cook chicken (I used olive oil)
Here is how to make it:

1. Cook pasta altogether until al dente (11-12 minutes) or your preference (I used a large roast pot because it was so much pasta). Drain and mix/season with salt, pepper and butter to taste. (I add in lots of butter always... At least 1/2 stick but mostly more). You can also add spinach here, cooks well with the water/pasta. I added some fresh from our garden!
2. In a separate saucepan, mix together Alfredo sauce, pasta sauce, and add cheese and butter. Season it with salt and pepper as you with. I didn't measure this exactly... Just kind of winged it! (Probably 1/2 stick of butter at least, and a few hefty handfuls of cheese).
3. In a separate pan (I used the top of our gas burners), pour at least a Tablespoon of olive oil and let it heat up. Cut up chicken into fairly even cubes, then put into pan when hot. Mix around regularly until chicken is slightly brown and cooked through full (white meat, no pink) when cut into. Drain oil and add seasonings, as well as some of the Alfredo-pasta sauce mixture.
4. In pot for pasta, DRAIN first, pour in some of the Alfredo-pasta sauce mixture, and mix together well. Taste and add more seasonings, etc, if you wish.
5. Pour mixture (pasta and sauce) into large pan. Layer chicken on top. Pour rest of Alfredo-pasta sauce mixture over pan. Sprinkle cheese generously. Sprinkles bread crumbs/tortilla pieces over. Mix together (carefully) again if you wish. Add a few slices of butter on top, scattered (You can never have too much of a good thing!)
6. Bake together in oven at 350 degrees to melt cheese and marry sauces/flavors together. I left it in for about 5-10 minutes or until all cheese is visibly melted. Because everything else is cooked before you put it all together, it doesn't need to be in long.
7. The best part: ENJOY! Easily eaten with a fork in a bowl. Also tastes fantastic with milk, my favorite. I received lots of compliments for it today at the study :)
I used a 12x17 dish pan, and it was huge. I mean, there are generally around 30+ ladies there, so a girl's gotta plan for a lot, right? But today was a smaller group, and I had half of it as leftovers which will be feeding us for dinner and during our upcoming trip up the coast. If you are using a smaller dish pan please adjust the amounts of ingredients accordingly.. Unless you want to clean your oven for the next week straight! Besides the point...
Enjoy y'all!! Casseroles are so easy and simple - just throw it all in a pan together.. Seriously,  I know I will be making more in the future. Here's to becoming a home cook! Not to mention feeding my man after a hard day's work!

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