Flavorful, golden and bubbly my Spinach Artichoke Chicken Pasta Bake combines a classic
appetizer combo and transforms it into a dinner time delight!
While I don’t make many casseroles because my boys don’t really like them (kids!), sometimes I do like the convenience of a casserole. One of my favorite casseroles is Mac ‘n Cheese. I’ve made these Mac ‘n Cheese recipes: Crawfish Mac & Cheese, Gnocchi Mac & Cheese, Quinoa Mac & Cheese and Muenster Mac & Cheese to name a few. It’s the creamy sauce that I like. I also like dips for the same reason. Wesley (Big Daddy) and I order the Spinach Artichoke Dip every time we eat at a restaurant. Big Daddy isn’t much of a ‘dip’ guy, but he does love Spinach Artichoke Dip. It came to me one day to combine one of Big Daddy’s favorite dips with the creamy pasta that I love. That’s how this Spinach Artichoke Chicken Pasta recipe was born!
One bite and Wesley said “This is the best pasta dish you’ve ever made.” The reason he liked it so much he said was that I “didn’t over do it on the cream sauce.” Had I been making it just for me, I would have loaded it up with cream sauce and cheese and not much else! He also explained that he enjoyed the slight tang of the marinated artichokes and added the spinach “gives it just enough ‘earthiness’ without overpowering the dish.”
Most baked pasta recipes call for boiled chicken. I wanted to add the most flavor to every component of the recipe therefore, I pan sautéed the chicken in a little oil with a sprinkling of salt and pepper to season it. I was careful not to over-cook and dry out the chicken. Even though there are a lot of steps in this recipe, cooking the pasta, cooking the chicken, and making the cheese sauce, I timed myself and it still came together right at 30 minutes. I used chicken tenders so they would cook faster. You could also cube chicken breast for quick cooking too.
Once all these separate components are ready, you simply mix everything together and bake until bubbly and golden.
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks (or 5 or 6 chicken tenders)
- 2 T vegetable oil for cooking chicken
- salt and pepper for chicken - I used about ½ tsp each
- ½ of a 9 oz box of frozen chopped spinach, drained well (squeeze excess liquid out with a paper towel)
- 1 (6 oz) jar marinated artichoked hearts, drained and chopped
- 8 oz pasta (I used farfalle, or bowtie, but any shape will work)
- 4 oz jar diced pimientos, drained (optional) If you're not a huge fan of pimentios omit or add just 1 or 2 Tablespoons of them
- Bechamel Sauce
- (I doubled the above recipe for Bechamel for this recipe, the amounts I used for this recipe is listed below. For detailed cooking instructions on Bechamel read the above link)
- 4 Tablespoons butter
- 4 Tablespoons self-rising flour
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups grated cheese, seperated (I used Cracker Barrel white cheddar. A havarti or muenster would also be good in this recipe.)
- In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions to al dente stage. Drain.
- Heat a saute' pan or skillet to medium high. After skillet is hot add 2 Tablespoons of oil. While oil is getting hot, salt and pepper chicken. Add chicken to hot pan and cook 3 to 4 minutes on medium-high heat. Turn and cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Cook time will depend on how hot your pan is. You can cut chicken open to test for doneness. Remove from pan when they're cooked.
- Cook Bechamel Sauce. Heat a large pot on medium. (You can use the same pot you boiled the pasta in.) Melt butter in hot pan, but don't let the butter brown. Add flour and whisk. Cook flour 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and continue whisking to remove any lumps. Cook until sauce thickens 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1 cup cheese and stir until cheese is melted.
- Combine pasta, chicken, artichokes, spinach (pull it apart into small pieces), and pimientos in a large bowl.
- Pour sauce over pasta mixture and gently stir. Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.
- Top mixture with remaining 1 cup cheese.
- At this point you can refrigerate 4 to 6 hours and cook later.
- When you're ready to cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook uncovered 25 to 30 minutes until cheese is melted, bubbly and browned.
- Cover and refrigerate any leftovers up to 2 days.
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