Cheesy Chicken Pasta Bake

Let me admit something…no matter how many recipes I may have saved, nothing beats food I already know. Sometimes all it takes is just re-imagining to make something new again. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Italian (or Italian inspired) food. There’s only so many times in a row you can have chicken parmigana but you can still use chicken, cheese, pasta and sauce!!

This is something I came up with one night because I was bored eating chicken and pasta side by side. So, I figured why not combine it? It’s just as quick as a lasagna but definitely less labor intensive. You can make the pasta while you’re making the chicken but you want to give the chicken a little bit of a head start. If you do make the pasta first, toss it with a little olive oil so it doesn’t turn into a giant clump. I used sauce that I had frozen but you can use jar sauce. No need to make it fresh until you want to. I also used pre-shredded cheese. It melts pretty nicely.

In terms of pasta, you can use any kind you’d like. I used fusilli but that’s because its one of my favorites. I like the way the sauce sticks to it. But penne or rigatoni would also work well. When I season my chicken, I always use salt, garlic powder, season salt, and poultry seasoning. You can use whatever you like but that’s just me. And the sauce doesn’t have to be hot since you’re going to make it. Just reserve enough to spread over the top of the bake to serve. This is also a great meal to have as a make ahead. You can put it all together, throw it in the fridge and then bake it when you need it! That being said, here’s your recipe!

Cheesy Chicken Pasta Bake
1 lb. pasta
1 lb. boneless chicken breast
2 cups tomato sauce
1 8oz. package shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350. In a small container season chicken. Add a dash of Italian seasoning. Pour 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar. Let sit for at least 15 minutes to marinate.

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place chicken on sheet and bake approximately 7 minutes per side.

In a medium pot, cook pasta to al dente.

When chicken is cooked leave out to cool. Chop into small to medium sized cubes. Drain pasta and return to pot. Spray or grease bottom and sides of 9×13 inch baking dish.

In pot mix pasta, chicken, half the cheese and 1 cup sauce. Transfer mixture into baking dish. Cover with 1/2 cup sauce and rest of cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 additional minutes to brown the top.

Serve topped with warm sauce.

cheesy chicken bake

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Sa’iyda’s Famous Baked Macaroni & Cheese

*stretch*

Hey out there in the blogosphere. I’m sorry I like fell off the face of the earth. Even though I’ve been cooking, I’m crap at the blogging part. I really need to start my recipe binder. Mind you, I’ve been talking about doing this for I’m not even going to say how long. I’ve recently become unemployed so maybe now with the extra free time I’ll get my kitchen crap together.

For me macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. As a kid I always loved eating Kraft in the blue box but my mother, being a stay at home mom and a fantastic cook pretty much forbade me from eating “fake” mac n cheese. So on the rare occasions she was out and it was just me and Dad for dinner I’d con him into buying some. It is still a treat for me even as an adult. If I’m going to eat a boxed mac n cheese though, I actually prefer Annie’s. With either one, I usually use whole milk (even though the box calls for lo-fat. yuck) so I add a little extra butter (not margarine. BUTTER). Anyways, my mom only makes her mac n cheese during the winter and fall because she feels that its too hot to make in the summer. Once we had an AC near the kitchen I tried to nullify this argument but it didn’t really work. I usually asked for it every Thanksgiving and for a lot of birthday dinners (since my birthday is in April, its still cold enough to make!).

As I got older, my mom trusted me with more responsibility than just grating the cheese. Though this is a challenge enough. I remember when I was helping my mom prepare it for my Sweet 16 party I almost grated off an acrylic nail. Hi, I’ve said I’m clumsy. I plan on investing in a food processor soon because I HATE grating cheese. And this is the most time consuming part of the process. Now as an adult, my mom makes the mac n cheese my sole responsibility. I can live with this. I have kept her outline and tweaked things as I’ve learned what works best. We only use yellow American cheese and cheddar. If you want to get fancy and try other kinds please do and let me know how it turns out. I’m usually all about experimenting but with this one, I’m sticking with my perfection. Sorry kids.

Okay, so let’s get down to brass tacks. You can use any kind of pasta you like. I usually use either elbows, medium shells or farfalle (bow ties). They fit best in a standard 9×13 pan. I always keep pasta in the house so if I make this on a whim I just go with what I have. =) I have also realized that for the cheese sauce you need more American cheese than cheddar because the creaminess of the American will counter balance the oiliness of the cheddar. So if I use a pound of cheddar I use a pound and a half of American. I like my sauce cheesy!

Ingredients

for cheese sauce1 lb block cheddar
1.5 lb block yellow American
whole milk

1 box pasta of your choice

Grate the cheese. I like to alternate so that the cheese mixes before it gets in the sauce. If you have to do it by hand, do this before you start doing anything else! Keep the cheese you’re not using in the fridge; it grates better cold. I NEVER use pre-grated cheese. The taste isn’t right and it doesn’t melt well enough. If you are smart and have a food processor, you can wait until you put the water up to boil.

Fill a large pot with cold water. Salt liberally, cover pot and set to boil on medium high heat. Grease bottom and sides of 9×13″ square pan. I like to use either Pam or butter.

Once the water is boiling, add pasta. Stir occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick together. Do not add oil to the water! Salt works much better. Pre-heat the oven to 350.

In a large sauce pan on medium low heat, add milk and a handful of cheese blend. Stir continuously as it melts, add more milk as the cheese becomes too thick. You don’t want to use a lot of milk because it will make the sauce too thin. Keep a careful eye on the sauce, it will burn on the bottom quickly!

Drain pasta when its done. I like it a little more than al dente because you’re going to bake it. Once pasta is drained, return it to the pot. Slowly pour the done cheese sauce over the pasta, mixing once or twice to keep the sauce from congealing.

This is where you may need a buddy. Transfer the pasta to the pan. It’s going to be heavy so if you can get someone to hold the baking pan while you pour its advised.

Bake covered for about 40-45 minutes. Uncover an bake for an additional 10 minutes so the top layer gets brown and gooey.

mac n cheese