Cheesy Chicken Pasta Bake

My husband is a serious pasta-aholic and goes nuts over my Cheesy Chicken Pasta Bake. I’m pretty sure if he could have pasta for dinner, in some form, every single night… he would!  One of the easiest (and most delicious) things  that I do with pasta is bake it.

One thing I want to add before I go into this recipe is that you can really put anything you want (or take out anything you don’t) for this. Want shrimp instead of chicken? Not a fan of mushrooms? Want some broccoli or peas? Whatever it is, this recipe is easily flexible and can handle it. Also,  if you don’t want to go to all the trouble of making your own sauce, you can use a prepared alfredo sauce – it will work just as well.

Ingredients

  • 12-16 ounces of tube pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 ½ cups milk
  • 1 ½ cups shredded asiago cheese
  • 1 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken (smoked, roasted, grilled… whatever you prefer)
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms (I used a ton more but we are mushroom lovers!)
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • ⅓ cup panko break crumbs (these are Japanese style bread crumbs and I like them better than regular bread crumbs, but any type works fine)
  • 2 teaspoons melted butter

Ok, I know the ingredients seem long, but I promise, this is so simple.

First, go ahead and preheat the oven to 375°. Grease up a casserole dish (depending on how many extra ingredients you add, 2-3 quart should be fine) and set it aside. Get the pasta cooking, according to the directions, drain it and return it to the pan.

The next step is to make the cheese sauce. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter. Add in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour, salt and pepper. Mix it up a bit and then slowy add the milk. Cook the mixture until it starts to thicken and bubble. At this point, you want to add in the cheeses, but do so a little at a time. Stir this mixture constantly until the cheese is melted. Also, you could use a combination of any cheeses you wanted. These are three of my favorites, so it’s what I normally use for any sauce I make. There are tons of wonderful cheeses out there to try, just make sure they complement each other.

This is the point where you would add in the cooked chicken and any vegetables you want. I would highly recommend using fresh vegetables. If you use mushrooms and onions, I’ve found that if I sauté them quickly before putting them in, there is a lot more more flavor. Also, when using broccoli, asparagus or something similar, steaming them briefly before putting them in is helpful. Fresh spinach and roasted red peppers are two of my favorite things to add to any pasta dish.