As you’re probably already aware, the Steelers won their 6th Super Bowl on Sunday! It was an amazing game; Morgan and I were jumping up and down all the way until the end. My heart is still slowly (very slowly) coming back down to its regular speed. Please excuse me in this post if I’m not able to form complete sentences yet!
This recipe is originally from 101 Cookbooks, but when I first made it last year I didn’t like it very much. I had high hopes because the recipe and photos looked amazing, but I thought it could be a little more flavorful. After a few changes, this recipe is now one of mine and Morgan’s favorites.
I’ve read that a trick to make macaroni and cheese more filling (so that you don’t eat as much) is to use a sharper cheese. Keeping this in mind, I added some sharp Vermont cheddar to the casserole. I also added chicken, which really made a huge difference (I’m not good with vegetarian meals, sorry Edwin!).
The only thing that I don’t love about this recipe is that it is time-consuming. There are several different steps including cooking the chicken, cooking the pasta, softening the veggies, combining everything and then baking it all together. I’d suggest making it on a Sunday night so that you have leftovers to enjoy throughout the week!
Also, I beg you to grate the cheese yourself and use only freshly grated cheeses. The times I’ve made this recipe with pre-shredded cheese it is never, ever as good. Fresh cheese makes a huge difference!
Chicken and Pasta Baked Casserole
adapted from 101 Cookbooks
3/4 pound pasta shells (101 recommends whole wheat pasta shells, but my grocery store never has whole wheat)
salt, to taste
1 lb. chicken, sliced (I recommend my recipe to bake the chicken, using 2 tablespoons white wine, paprika, salt, pepper, Montreal chicken seasoning, cayenne, to taste)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 bag fresh leaf spinach, chopped
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
6 ounces fresh mozzerella, grated
4 ounces fresh Vermont cheddar, grated
Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter/spray a large, rectangular casserole dish (I’ve found this works a lot better than round CorningWare).
Boil the pasta in salted water per package instructions. Drain, toss with a two tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside.
In the meantime, cook chicken in a baking dish. I use my standard method to bake the chicken, which you can find here.
Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a skillet or wok. Saute the onions and a bit of salt for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, then spinach, cooking for approximately 20-30 seconds. Remove skillet or wok from heat and stir in almonds. Combine spinach mixture with pasta in a large bowl and carefully stir. When chicken is done cooking, slice and add. Set aside. (If you like to sneak in more veggies, I’d recommend sliced mushrooms which I have also added before)
Grate cheese and combine in a medium bowl. Begin by adding a layer of pasta to the casserole dish, followed by a layer of cheese. Continue alternating layers, finishing with a layer of cheese. Sprinkle just a dash of cayenne and paprika over the top. Cover dish with foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes.