My family loves this dish. It is so forgiving and an easy way to use up leftovers (chicken and veggies). It also freezes really well. As written, this recipe would make a 9×13 pan. However, that is just way too much food for my family of 4, so I put it in 2 8×8 pans. I cook one and I freeze one. The best part is that you can bake the frozen one without thawing it.
I found the original recipe over at Real Mom Kitchen, but have adapted it to fit our tastes. We found it to be a little bland, but with the help of some extra garlic and cheese along the way it made a wonderful dish….and now a family favorite. In fact, my 6yo asked for it as her birthday supper.
We’ve tried a lot of veggie combos and all have been good. About the only thing we haven’t tried is the original version of mushroom and sun-dried tomato because we don’t really care for mushrooms. However, we’ve done: sun-dried tomato only, sun-dried tomato and asparagus, red bell pepper and asparagus. All were wonderful.
Cheesy Chicken Penne
6 tablespoons butter
kosher salt and black pepper
1 pound penne rigate
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut in fajita-sized strips (or use some leftover cooked chicken)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
1-2 tsps garlic powder
6 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups veggies (sliced mushrooms, red pepper strips, asparagus tips, etc)
1 cup sliced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 400. Spray two shallow 2-quart baking dishes with non-stick cooking spray (use a disposable foil pan for freezing). In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes short of al dente; drain pasta and set aside. The pasta will finish cooking in the oven.
While pasta is boiling, heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper; cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan. While pan is still hot, toss the veggies (not the tomatoes) in and saute until tender (3-4 minutes). Use a little extra olive oil if needed.
In a large, heavy pot , melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and garlic; cook, stirring for 1 minute. While stirring constantly, gradually add milk; bring to a simmer. Keep stirring frequently as sauce thickens, about 1 minute more. Add garlic powder. Taste! Adjust seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic) here since this is the main flavor of the dish. Gradually stir in Italian blend cheese and 1 1/2 cups Parmesan. Taste again! Add veggies and tomatoes. Gently stir to combine
Add chicken and pasta to pot. Divide pasta mixture between baking dishes. Top with remaining Parmesan
Bake, uncovered, until top is golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes.I like to turn the broiler on during the last 5 minutes or so to get that yummy bubbly cheesy crust that you’d get at a restaurant (watch it closely though…it will burn fast). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
To freeze, prepare until baking instructions. Cover pan well with plastic wrap and foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. To bake, preheat oven to 400. Remove foil and plastic from pan. Place foil back on pan and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil. Return pan to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until mixture is hot and bubbly throughout. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
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