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Chicken & Spinach Pasta Bake

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Chicken & Spinach Pasta Bake is a delightful dish that’s perfect for a family dinner or any gathering. This hearty casserole combines tender chicken, nutritious spinach, and a creamy cheese sauce, all baked to perfection with rigatoni pasta. The addition of Italian-style diced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese brings a burst of flavor that everyone will love. This recipe is not only delicious but also easy to prepare, making it a great choice for busy weeknights or relaxed weekends.

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Ingredients

Main Ingredients:

  • Chicken Breasts: 3 cups, cooked and chopped
  • Rigatoni Pasta: 8 oz
  • Spinach: 1 package (10 oz) frozen, thawed and drained
  • Italian-style Diced Tomatoes: 1 can (14 oz)
  • Onion: 1 cup, chopped
  • Olive Oil: 1 tablespoon
  • Chive & Onion Cream Cheese: 1 container (8 oz)
  • Mozzarella Cheese: 1 1/2 cups, shredded

Seasonings:

  • Salt: 1/2 teaspoon
  • Pepper: 1/2 teaspoon

Instructions

Step 1: Prepare the Pasta

  1. Boil Water: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Cook Pasta: Add the rigatoni and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Step 2: Cook the Onion

  1. Heat Olive Oil: In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Sauté Onion: Add the chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

Step 3: Combine Ingredients

  1. Mix Chicken and Spinach: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked chicken, thawed and drained spinach, sautéed onions, Italian-style diced tomatoes (with their juice), chive & onion cream cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix well until everything is evenly combined.
  2. Add Pasta: Gently fold in the cooked rigatoni until well mixed.

Step 4: Assemble the Casserole

  1. Preheat Oven: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Prepare Baking Dish: Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  3. Add Mixture to Dish: Pour the chicken and spinach mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread it out evenly.
  4. Top with Cheese: Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.

Step 5: Bake

  1. Bake: Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and the casserole is heated through.
  2. Serve: Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Cooking Notes and Variations

Cooking Notes:

  • Chicken: You can use rotisserie chicken for convenience. Just shred the meat and measure out 3 cups.
  • Spinach: Ensure the spinach is well-drained to avoid excess moisture in the casserole.
  • Cheese: Feel free to use a blend of cheeses for a richer flavor.

Variations:

  • Keto Version: Replace the rigatoni with zucchini noodles or shirataki noodles. Use full-fat cream cheese and mozzarella.
  • Gluten-Free Version: Use gluten-free pasta and ensure the other ingredients are certified gluten-free.
  • Vegetarian Version: Omit the chicken and add more vegetables like bell peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini. Use vegetable broth if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can I make this dish ahead of time?

A: Yes, you can assemble the casserole up to a day in advance. Cover it tightly and store it in the refrigerator. When ready to bake, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes and then bake as directed.

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Q: Can I freeze Chicken & Spinach Pasta Bake?

A: Absolutely! Assemble the casserole and let it cool completely. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake as directed.

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Q: How do I store leftovers?

A: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or oven until heated through.

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Q: Can I use different types of cheese?

A: Yes, you can use your favorite cheeses or what you have on hand. Cheddar, Gruyere, or Fontina would all be delicious substitutes.

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Q: What can I serve with this casserole?

A: This casserole pairs well with a fresh green salad, garlic bread, or steamed vegetables.

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Chicken & Spinach Pasta Bake is a versatile and comforting dish that’s perfect for any occasion. With its creamy sauce, tender chicken, and flavorful vegetables, it’s sure to become a staple in your meal rotation. Whether you’re making it for a weeknight dinner or a special gathering, this casserole is a crowd-pleaser. Enjoy the rich, savory flavors and the convenience of this easy-to-make dish. Happy cooking!