This beautiful recipe is inspired by The Cooking Jar (http://www.thecookingjar.com/). Farah has a wonderful approach to her blog – everyday cooking for everyday cooks. While I love experimenting with recipes, it also means I need to google some of the ingredients as I wonder “What the heck is that?” With The Cooking Jar, you will recognize every ingredient – most of those “real” ingredients are probably already in you kitchen.
Since I am in the process of packing up my kitchen for our pending “big move” to a new life in a new city, I’ve taken the liberty of making a few changes to the original recipe.
While Farah gives you an assortment of pasta possibilities, I’ve used a Penne Rigate in my version since it’s what I have in the pantry. Farah also included an awesome recipe for home-made Alfredo Sauce. Since we have several jars of Alfredo Sauce remaining in the pantry from our last Costco run, I wanted to use a jar of prepared sauce rather than make sauce from scratch. That said, I have added a few delights to the processed sauce. I also added crushed garlic from a jar to her recipe (another Costco purchase that I’d rather not have to pack). One final Costco ingredient was that big bag of Rotisserie style chicken meat in the freezer. The bag was originally bought to make a chicken salad that I never got around to making. While there is no way to get the freezer COMPLETELY empty before the move, I am working hard to get it as empty as possible. Besides, moving is costly – so we are trimming the budget as much as possible by utilizing what foods are on hand rather than stock up on more “future” endorsers, no matter what the sale price might be. We have always maintained a well-stocked pantry and jam-packed freezer. Thank goodness for my past future planning – our food budget has been greatly reduced by using up all those sale items purchased back when.
The recipe had me blend the Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs with Parmesan Cheese and some olive oil. While I’ve used breadcrumb and cheese combinations for a variety of toppings to a baked casserole before, I’ve never added olive oil to the mix. It gives everything this wonderful “finish” that made spreading over the top of the casserole oh so easy. Next time I’m going to try it with my Creamy-Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes or to add to my Better Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes – Almost from Scratch when I’m feeling a little lazy.
With the kitchen turned up-side-down and packing crates everywhere, this was a delight to prepare for my hungry “crew” – effortless meals is what I am all about these days – effortless and delicious. This Pesto-Alfredo casserole was spot on the mark in both categories.
Pesto-Alfredo Pasta Chicken Bake
16 oz. Penne Rigate
3 cups cooked chicken, cubed
2 cups Italian cheese blend, shredded
5 oz. fresh baby spinach
1 can (15 oz.) petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 Jar Alfredo sauce, improved below
2/3 cup milk
1 jar (7 oz.) pesto
2 Tablespoons Crushed Garlic (Jar) or to taste
½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cook the pasta until just before al dente. DO NOT over cook the pasta as it will continue to cook while baking. Drain and rinse pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process.
While the pasta is cooking, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine chicken, cheese blend, spinach, tomatoes, Alfredo sauce, milk and pesto in a bowl large enough to hold the pasta as well. Stir to blend everything together. Add pasta to the chicken mix and give it another stir to combine all the ingredients. Set aside.
Lightly spray a 9″x13″ casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour the chicken/pasta mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Spread evenly with the back of a spoon and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine seasoned breadcrumbs,Parmesan cheese and oil. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the casserole.
Place casserole, uncovered, into the preheated oven on the middle rack. Bake for 30 minutes or until piping hot and bubbling with goodness.
Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Serve with a crisp green salad and warm garlic bread and enjoy!
Best Alfredo Sauce from a Jar
1 Jar Bertolli Alfredo Sauce
1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Teaspoon Chopped Garlic (from a jar)
Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
1 Pinch Nutmeg
In a sauce pan over low heat, empty jar of Alfredo Sauce.
To the now empty jar, add about 1/4 cup cream. Close jar and swirl, shake to blend and gather any remaining sauce with cream. Pour into the pan.
Add chopped garlic, fresh pepper and just a pinch of Nutmeg. Stir gently and heat over low heat. Alfredo sauce is best when allowed to gently warm.
Use in above recipe or pour over favorite pasta, toss to blend.
Taste and adjust pepper as necessary.
- Note: If using the sauce alone with no other “color” such as basil or spinach or other herbs in the dish, you can add a sprinkling of color when serving by chopping some Italian Parsley or fresh chives.
Original source: http://www.thecookingjar.com/pesto-chicken-pasta-bake/