Monday, February 2, 2015

Three Cheese Chicken Spinach and Pasta Bake

     There's been a can of spinach in my pantry for a couple of years now. It sat quietly towards the back. It wasn't bothering anybody. It had to be dealt with. I wound up using it in this recipe I dug out of one of the myriad cookbooks I buy from school fundraisers. I need to stop. The books are overpriced and generally only involve recipes that call for gallons of canned cream soups. This is one of the less offensive recipes, mildly doctored to ensure some flavor. In its defense, it comes together quickly and doesn't use a terribly frightening amount of sodium. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Three Cheese Chicken Spinach and Pasta Bake
via Kraft Easy Cheesy Meals
  • 1-1/2 cups multi-grain penne pasta, uncooked (bah. Regular one grain pasta)
  • 1 package, (9 ounces) fresh spinach leaves (none on hand. Not even frozen. Wound up using a 14.5 ounce can of spinach, drained. Popeye would be proud)
  • 1 lb.boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 jar (14.5 ounce) spaghetti sauce (I used my standby recipe for red sauce. I also only used about 9 ounces)
  • 2 ounces Neufchatel, cubed (nice to see people finally using this stuff instead of regular cream cheese)
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Bronzeville Rib Rub from The Spice House
  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C, Gasmark 5)
  2. Cook pasta as directed on package. (If you're using fresh spinach), add spinach to the boiling water at the last minute. If you're using the canned, hang on a second.
  3. Cook and stir chicken and basil (and Rib Rub, if you're using it) in a large, nonstick skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray on medium-high heat for 3 minutes (we did a shade over 5. Nobody wants salmonella.) Stir in spaghetti sauce and tomatoes (if you're using the drained canned spinach, it goes in now); bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat 3 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in Neufchatel.
  4. Drain pasta, return to pan. Stir in chicken mixture and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Load into 2 quart casserole or 8" baking dish. 
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Top with remaining cheese. Bake 3 minutes more or until cheese is melted. 
Good times!

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