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Italian Chicken Casserole

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Italian Chicken Casserole is a delightful dish that combines the savory flavors of grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh vegetables with a creamy, cheesy sauce. This recipe is perfect for a family dinner or a gathering, offering a hearty and satisfying meal that’s both easy to prepare and full of rich flavors. Whether you use grilled chicken breasts or a convenient rotisserie chicken, this casserole is sure to become a favorite in your household.

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Ingredients

Main Ingredients

  • Cooked, Cubed Chicken Breasts: 1 pound (recommended grilled, or use rotisserie chicken for convenience)
  • Linguine: 1 box (16 ounces)
  • Olive Oil: 2 tablespoons
  • Garlic: 4 cloves, minced
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes: 1/2 cup, chopped (or roasted red peppers for a variation)
  • Cornstarch: 2 tablespoons
  • Chicken Broth: 1 cup
  • Heavy Cream: 1 cup
  • Milk: 2 cups
  • Kosher Salt: 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Fresh Black Pepper: 1/2 teaspoon
  • Baby Spinach: 5 ounces
  • Fresh Sliced Mushrooms: 8 ounces
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese: 1/2 cup
  • Shredded Mozzarella Cheese: 2 cups (or any Italian cheese blend)

Instructions

Step 1: Prepare the Linguine

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

Step 2: Cook the Vegetables

  1. Heat Olive Oil: In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Sauté Garlic: Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add Mushrooms: Stir in the sliced mushrooms and cook until they are tender and browned.
  4. Add Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Add the baby spinach and chopped sun-dried tomatoes (or roasted red peppers) to the skillet. Cook until the spinach is wilted.

Step 3: Make the Sauce

  1. Mix Cornstarch and Chicken Broth: In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1 cup of chicken broth until smooth.
  2. Combine Cream, Milk, and Cornstarch Mixture: Add the heavy cream, milk, and cornstarch mixture to the skillet. Stir well to combine.
  3. Season: Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh black pepper. Cook the sauce until it thickens, stirring frequently.

Step 4: Assemble the Casserole

  1. Preheat Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Combine Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked linguine, cubed chicken, and the creamy vegetable sauce. Mix until everything is well coated.
  3. Transfer to Baking Dish: Transfer the mixture to a greased 9×13-inch baking dish.
  4. Top with Cheese: Sprinkle 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.

Step 5: Bake

  1. Bake: Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the casserole is bubbly.
  2. Serve: Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Cooking Notes and Variations

Cooking Notes:

  • Chicken: For a richer flavor, use grilled chicken breasts. Rotisserie chicken is a great time-saver and adds a different depth of flavor.
  • Pasta: Linguine is recommended, but you can substitute with other pasta shapes like fettuccine, penne, or rigatoni.
  • Vegetables: Feel free to add or substitute other vegetables such as bell peppers, zucchini, or artichoke hearts.

Variations:

  • Keto Version: Replace the linguine with zucchini noodles or shirataki noodles. Use heavy cream and cheese, but ensure they are full-fat and keto-friendly.
  • Gluten-Free Version: Use gluten-free pasta and ensure the cornstarch and other ingredients are certified gluten-free.
  • Vegetarian Version: Omit the chicken and add more vegetables such as bell peppers, zucchini, and broccoli. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

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.

Q: Can I freeze Italian Chicken Casserole?

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.

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.

Q: What can I serve with this casserole?

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

Italian Chicken Casserole 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!