Thursday, February 28, 2013

Southwestern Baked (Chicken) Pasta

Julian wanted "a casserole".

"We haven't had casserole in a LONG time, mom!" He whined.

(I don't think he really knows what a casserole is, but I thought, lets go with it!)

We pondered over Tuna Casserole, Baked Ziti, Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole, some sort of vegetable pasta... and Nate suggested Southwestern Chicken Pasta, with "creamy enchilada sauce...."

And thus, Southwestern Baked Pasta was born!!

You can call it Southwestern Chicken Pasta, if you're putting chicken in it - it makes more sense that way! :)

What you will need:

  • 1 lb. pasta - I used penne, but any bite sized pasta will work
  • 1/2 onion - diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper - diced
  • 1/4 tsp olive oil or cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped baby spinach
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup corn kernels - frozen or fresh
  • chicken - 2 large breasts or 3-4 thighs - optional
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • just shy of 1 tablespoon flour
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large 28 oz can green enchilada sauce (you may not use all of this)
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cups cheese depending on your taste - I like a mixture of cojita, pepper jack and sharp cheddar
Cook the pasta al-dente, or a little less done, as it will cook more in the oven later. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

Dice and lightly saute onion and red pepper in a small amount of olive oil or cooking spray. Add to the pasta.

Chop your kale, spinach and tomato and add to the bowl along with frozen or fresh corn.

If using chicken - cook, sprinkled with additional salt, pepper, cumin and smoked paprika in a small amount of olive oil until just cooked thru - dice and add to the pasta. I also added a small amount of water (a couple tablespoons) to the hot pan, whisked around and poured this into the pasta, for added flavor.

Melt butter in a medium sauce pan, add flour and cook for 3-5 minutes on medium heat until lightly browned. Add in the milk and cream cheese, whisking constantly until smooth. Slowly add in about half of the green enchilada sauce, along with the garlic, cumin, smoked paprika and pepper, whisking till completely combined and smooth.

Add the sauce to the pasta mixture, stir to combine well - adding in more enchilada sauce if needed.

Pour this mixture into a 9X13 pan, top with the cheese, then drizzle with some more of the enchilada sauce - just a few tablespoons.

Bake in a 350* oven for 20 - 30 minutes until heated thru.

Just before serving, broil for a few minutes to brown the cheese slightly.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and some hot sauce.

Of course, I made one with chicken for the boys, and one with only veggies for me - it was easy - I mixed everything together except the chicken, separated my portion into a smaller casserole, then added in the chicken and pan drippings to the remaining pasta, poured into a larger casserole, topped both with cheese and baked.

The boys really enjoyed this, and I think it will heat up nicely for lunch tomorrow!