Warm up a chilly evening with this luxurious cheesy chicken pasta bake.  Sautéed chicken and tender pasta are baked together in a delicious cheesy sauce imbued  with a hint of garlic and paprika.  Simple and wonderful, this dish is a comforting crowd-pleaser.

chicken pasta bakePasta, melted cheese, and chicken all rank pretty high on my list of comfort foods.  There is something so cozy about a warm meal, right out of the oven, especially if melted cheese is involved.  I like the flexibility a baked dish gives me, because while it is baking, I can make a salad and get everything else ready.  I based the recipe on the basic macaroni and cheese formula, with the addition of cooked chicken and a little bit of spices.  It is a very simple recipe, which works well with kids, or if you are making food for people with varying tastes.  This dish also tastes really good with mushrooms in it too, but it tastes so delicious as is, with a nice colorful salad on the side.  If you are looking for a basic comfort meal, this is one of my favorites.

chicken pasta bakeWe are in the midst of my favorite time of year.  I am continually amazed at the beauty of this season.  And I am fortunate to have a birthday during my favorite time of year! My family and friends were so kind to me this past few days, helping me celebrate and accompanying me over the threshold into a new decade.  The weather was beautiful, so we spent a lot of the weekend outside, among the jewel-toned trees.

On Sunday, we biked on a trail that took us along the Huron River.  There is a section of this trail that goes through a tunnel of trees, and on that day, the leaves were a vibrant yellow and gold, with some bright red here and there.  As we rode through that bright tunnel, with the yellow leaves all around us, and the path itself covered with yellow, gold, and red, a hush fell over the trail, and all I could hear was the sound of my bike gliding over the leaves. With the shining river beside me and the golden, sun-dappled leaves swirling around, I felt like I was in the most beautiful place on earth.  I have traveled a fair bit, and I have seen lots of pictures, so I know there are more beautiful places on this earth.  But in that moment, I don’t think anything could compare.  And how happy I felt, to be cycling through the most beautiful place on earth.

Since then, the weather has turned chilly and rainy, yet still colorful and so beautiful.  This is the kind of weather that is made for a warm cheesy chicken pasta bake, right out of the oven.  I hope you have a great week!

Cheesy Chicken Pasta Bake

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces of pasta, such as cavatappi or penne
  • 1 to 1 and 1/2 pounds of boneless chicken breast, cut into small cubes
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of 2% milk (you may also use whole milk or half and half for a thicker sauce)
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 2 cups of Mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of paprika, to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh parsley for garnish

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water, according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the chicken cubes.  Sprinkle the chicken with the garlic salt and cook over medium to medium high heat, until the chicken is no longer pink and cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter over medium heat in the same skillet, and stir in the minced garlic.  Cook for one minute, stirring the whole time.  Whisk the flour into the butter mixture and stir until combined, about a minute.  Stir in the milk and chicken broth.  Increase the heat to medium-high and stir until the sauce bubbles and thickens a bit.  Turn the heat down to medium to medium-low.  Add 1 and 1/2 cups of the shredded Mozzarella cheese and about half of the shredded Parmesan cheese to the sauce, and cook, stirring, until melted.  Stir the chicken into the sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Spread the cooked pasta into the prepared baking dish.  Carefully spoon the chicken and sauce into the baking dish and stir well to combine the pasta with the chicken and sauce.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses and a pinch of paprika.

Bake in your 350 degree oven for 20 to 25minutes, or until the cheese is melted, golden, and bubbly.  Let the dish cool about 10 minutes and serve warm.  This meal goes well with a salad. Enjoy!