Sunday, November 16, 2008

Three-Cheese Chicken Penne Pasta Bake...

With the end of the year fast approaching, I've been busy swimming in recipes trying to figure out what we will be making for the big baking spree coming up. I love this time of the year - the house is always filled with fantastic and indulgent treats, along with their seductive aromas. We did most of the shopping this weekend... and I suppose it's time to show our annual supply of butter we will end up going through!

Crazy, no? I'm sure Paula would be proud.

Let's try to forget about all that outrageous amount of butter for the moment and move on to the recap - 8 new recipes swept through the kitchen this week - our favorites this round where those deceptive Sweet Miniature Sliders, Roasted Garlic Pizza and that Peanut Butter Chocolate Pudding.

Cozy, warm and comforting... that is exactly what popped into my mind while we filled up our bellies tonight with this Three-Cheese Chicken Penne Pasta Bake I made for dinner.

We started this dish by plunging a heaping scoop of whole-wheat penne into boiling salted water and letting it dance around the pot while we made the sauce to coat the pasta with. We lightly browned chunky pieces of lean chicken breast in just enough oil to keep them from sticking. To season those nuggets, and subsequently the sauce later on, we sprinkled in dried basil, oregano, garlic and a hefty pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Once the pieces gained a little color, we added marinara sauce and a can of drained fire-roasted diced tomatoes. Left to bubble until the chicken had finished cooking through, we tossed in a few cubes of cream cheese to smooth out the sauce and add a little richness.

A minute before the pasta was ready, we added a hefty amount of fresh spinach leaves - be sure to use a large pot, even though the pasta amount is fairly small, so all that spinach will fit in. The two are drained, added to the feisty tomato sauce along with a couple ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese. Scooped into its baking dish, this casserole is cooked until the sauce is hot, bubbling and the pasta soaks in some of the excess liquid. While it is fully cooked now, the dish is removed and a bit more mozzarella is scattered on top, along with a shower of sharp Parmesan cheese. Slid back in the oven for a just a couple extra minutes, the heat from the oven will turn those threads of cheese into a delicious gooey topping.

While it is always nice to pull out tidy squares for dishes like macaroni and cheese or lasagna, we quite enjoyed this being a little on the saucy side with a bit of flow to it. Since we added a bunch of spices, you could probably get away with blitzing some extra tomatoes and seasoning to taste instead of hauling out the marinara sauce... but the depth from that cooked down sauce added an inviting homey feeling.


  1. Wow. That's alotta butta! Paula would be proud!Hahaha...
    The pasta bake looks fantastic and so easy to make. I'm going to try this one day after work, it's that easy. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Mmmm, the pasta looks yummy! Can't wait to see what you bake with all of that butter! I made Alton Brown's meatloaf tonight and wasn't thrilled although DH loved it.

  3. THIS looks awesome I think we'll have this for supper!

  4. I'm thinking even Paula wouldn't use up that much butter! Will you really go through it all over the holidays?????


  5. holy butter!! she would be proud :)

  6. I hope you got the butter on sale. We pay around $4 a pound right now. I wish it was on sale. Can't wait to see your Christmas treats this year.

  7. I made this tonight for supper. Not only did my kids LIKE it. They even knew it was spinach and still ate it. Even my pickiest eater ate it and she hates everything I make!! Thank you!

  8. Annie - It would be a great weeknight dish.

    Paige - What didn't you like?

    Allyson - I'm glad you came back and let us know it worked out well for you!

    Quinn - it is sick isn't it? Yes, we will probably go through most of it.

    TTFN - hee hee!

    Helene - that is crazy! I picked up most of this for about $1.70 to $2 a pound.

  9. I wait ALL year for you to start baking your Christmas goodies Joe and I don't even receive any of them! I can't wait to see what you come up with this year.

  10. Wow, lots of butter, but I know you will make lots of delicious gooddies too!
    The chicken pasta looks so good Joe, I will be making that, I know my boys will like it, they love pasta around here, especially with sauces and cheeses!

  11. The three cheese pasta bake...WOW, what can I say...I was floored! It was to die for and my husband absolutely LOVED it, though I might have overcooked the chicken, I forgot it had to cook in oven so I let the chicken really good before realizing it! Oh well, better luck next time!! THANKS!

  12. We would only go through maybe 2 of those butter sticks in one year!

  13. Amanda - I know what you mean. I try to fit in new recipes too, but people complain if they don't get their favorites!

    Ana - Yes! Lots of goodies... at almost all of them will take a bite from the buttery supply!

    Angela - I'm glad to hear you guys liked it!

    Jacqui - We sure keep the dairy people happy!