Chunks of chicken, slathered in a creamy, cheesy pesto sauce and turned into a comforting pasta bake.
Love a good pasta bake? Have I got the one for you? That’s a rhetorical question because yes, yes I do have the pasta bake for you.
I love a good Pasta Bake, especially when it promises cheesiness and creaminess. Nom, nom, nom. It’s just a great comforting meal. It’s easy. You can literally make it with whatever ingredients you have to hand and add pasta and cheese. It’s such a humble and homely dish which are 2 things I happen to enjoy when it comes to food.
Yep, this is big dish of heaven right here. Like a comforting blanket in Winter. Ok, so I know it’s not Winter here in Oz right now but that’s never stopped me from devouring a perfect plate of belly warming goodness like this.
So here we go. This Creamy Chicken and Tomato Pesto Pasta Bake is a mouthful in more ways than one. We start with some good basic pasta, some good basic chicken. We add a good dash of paprika and pesto, then cheeeeeese 🙂 There is actually only 110g total cheese in this whole dish but the creamy white sauce makes it go much further and become so much creamier than it could alone. It’s almost like a mac and cheese with some tomato pesto and chicken, that is then baked. Ok, ok. It’s nothing like mac and cheese. Except for the ‘good’ part 🙂
Pasta bake is always such a good family meal as well as it goes a long way and is cost effective. This recipe is for 6 generous serves but you could easily serve it out to 8. So long as no one is planning on coming back for seconds.
I prefer to use genuine fresh parmesan. I’m not a cheese snob but the shaker kind of parmesan is, well, stinky and it doesn’t provide the same flavour either. Each to their own though. If the shaker parmesan is your thing, knock yourself out. I can’t attest to how it would taste or how well it would blend in with the sauce though.
The other wonderful thing about pasta bakes is you can use whatever pasta you like. I never throw out dried pasta if there is just a little left in the packet. Instead, I throw it all into one container of mixed dried pasta. And that container is where I went for this recipe. This pasta bake was made with penne and rigatoni but any type of spiral pasta would be good too – the spirals will catch and trap that lovely sauce.
And what’s not to love about a meal that tastes equally as good, reheated the next day. Love it.
Hope you all enjoy and ciao!
Creamy Chicken & Tomato Pesto Pasta Bake
- 240 g (3 level cups) dry pasta (like penne or rigatoni)
- 2 large chicken breasts, sliced
- 1 tablespoon paprika (note 1)
- 2 teaspoons mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (note 1)
- 1 small capsicum, diced
- 1 small tin champignons
- 50 g butter
- 1 ½ tablespoons flour (note 1)
- 2 cups milk
- 40 g cheddar, grated
- 40 g mozzarella, grated
- 30 g parmesan, finely grated (note 2)
- 3 tablespoons tomato pesto (note 1)
- Chopped parsley to serve
- Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F (180C fan forced).
- Boil 2 litres water, then add a tablespoon of salt and the dry pasta. Boil for the length of time suggested on the packet until the pasta is just al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- In the meantime, place the sliced chicken, paprika, mustard powder, salt, pepper and garlic in a bowl and mix well to coat the chicken thoroughly. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat, and add the chicken. Cook for 5-6 minutes until sealed, then add the capsicum and champignons.
- For the cheese sauce In a saucepan (I just use the one I just boiled the pasta in, making sure there is nothing left in it) over medium heat, melt the butter. As soon as it starts bubbling and is all melted, add the flour. Whisk well and allow it to continue bubbly for 1 minute while you whisk. Slowly add the milk, whisking as you go. Bring the mixture to a boil and allow it to bubble, whisking every so often, for 3-4 minutes until thickened. Add half of each of the cheeses and stir well.
- Immediately add the sauce to the chicken. Then top with the pasta and pesto. Give the whole lot a good mix around. Then pour into a casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheeses over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until just starting to turn golden on top.
- Top with parsley and serve.
- I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon.
- Don't used dried parmesan. Make sure to use the real thing.