Sunday, April 13, 2014

Easy Cajun Chicken Pasta Bake

As many of you know, we just moved into a new house.  And it seems that we now have a continual swarm of random teenagers over on any given evening.  Am I complaining?  NOPE!  I love knowing where my kids are, and with whom.  I love knowing that they are choosing to be here, and that they are bringing their friends over.  But goodness gracious, they eat... a LOT. 

Well if you are feeding a small swarm of your own, this easy recipe may do the trick.  It's super easy, goes a long ways, and we all know that pasta is a pretty economical way to stretch your budget.  The list of ingredients is most likely things you probably already have, so that's a big bonus!  This recipe does have a bit of a kick to it, so feel free to adjust the heat to your preference.  I was not in the mood for anything bland when I made it.  The verdict?  Two thumbs up from the teens!  :)

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Ingredients:  (6 - 8 servings)
  • 4 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 cup mixed color bell peppers, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can "mild" Ro-tel tomatoes, with juice
    • control heat here.  There are hotter varieties.
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 - 3 tsp Creole seasoning
    • control heat here.  
    • Use 2 tsp for less heat,  3 tsp for more heat.
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions, plus more for garnish
  • 3 - 4 cups cooked chicken, white and dark meat, in bite-sized pieces
  • 16 oz pkg egg noodles, boiled and drained according to package directions
  • 2 cups shredded Colby-Monterrey Jack cheese blend
  • optional crunchy topping ideas
    • tortilla strips
    • seasoned bread crumbs or Panko bread crumbs
    • crushed Ritz crackers
Step-by-Step:  
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  We'll start by heating up some 1 Tbsp canola oil and 2 Tbsp butter.  You'll need a large pan for this.  I chose a 12" pan with rather deep sides.  I didn't want the strong flavor of olive oil for this one.   
Once the oil and butter are sizzling, add in the chopped peppers and onions.   You can save yourself quite a bit of time here by using peppers and onions that you have already chopped and frozen.  Not only do you not have to chop them, but they will cook down a lot faster.
Now add in your crimini (baby bella) mushrooms.  Once the liquid in the bottom is all "used up," I added the other 2 Tbsp butter.  Give these all a few minutes to saute so the flavors can marry together.

While your veggies are cooking down, you need to have your water going for your pasta.  Cook them according to package directions for al dente (about 7 minutes).  They will cook more in the oven. 


Here's where you just start dumping things together.  Cream of celery soup.  Cream of chicken soup.
A can of Ro-Tel tomatoes.  I used the "mild" version.  There are hotter ones.  You could really super charge this recipe with heat, but I wasn't really looking for THAT much heat, just a nice kick.  Notice, I'm not draining the tomatoes first.  We are going to need all this liquid.
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder, then 2 - 3 tsp Creole seasoning.  Here's another opportunity to control your heat.   
*If you don't want heat in your dish, or are cooking for small children, consider using more garlic powder and substituting plain salt and pepper rather than Creole seasoning.  Or even try 1 tsp and try a "taste as your go" method of seasoning.
 
Here we go with our main liquids:  1 cup of milk, 1 can of chicken broth.  
Add in your chopped green onions, bring to a boil, then add in your 3 - 4 cups cooked chicken.   At the point where you add the chicken, turn off the heat.  You don't want the chicken to cook more than it has to, as it's already done.  We don't want it all dried out.
Let me take this opportunity to say you could add your protein of choice here.  One of my kids suggested that crawfish would great in this dish.  Someone else suggested shrimp.  Cooked roast pork would be great.  I'm a huge advocate of making a recipe your own, so go for it!  :)

Add the cooked, drained pasta to the sauce.  If you would prefer a different type of pasta, go for it!  I felt the egg noodles would hold the sauce well without soaking it up too much, making it dry.  If it looks too soupy right now, don't worry.... pasta is thirsty.  It will indeed soak in some sauce.  Now you can see why I started with such a large pan.
Add the contents of your pan to a greased casserole dish.  Garnish with more green onions if you'd like.  Or if you are in a big hurry, you could even leave it in the first pan if it's oven safe, making it a one-pot meal!  
Alright, I'm going out on a limb here, but that's what I do.  I love a bit of crunch on my food.  We seem to be a family divided on this issue.   We are the crunchy lovers, and the "nots."  So I am going to add some crunch to half of the casserole dish.  I got to thinking of some ways folks usually top their casseroles..... bread crumbs, Panko, cracker crumbs... but there staring at me from the shelf were these brightly colored tortilla strips.  Oh yes - this was going to happen.  Color, crunch, and that salty, corny flavor!   I always tell you, play with your food!   Feel free to leave it naked if you are crunchy aversive.  It's your meal.
Now I'm going to smother this thing in cheese.  Yep yep yep!
A bit more green onions, and we are ready to bake this baby.  It almost did not fit in the casserole dish.  This is a seriously large amount of food, folks!  This would be great for bringing to a pot luck, for having a group of people over from your church group, block party, or family.. or a swarm of hungry teenagers!  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes.  I did not cover it. 
For serving to the NON-teens, this sure goes nicely with a glass of wine!
Here's the inside.  Like I said, this is a LOT of food!  Chicken, veggies, mushrooms, pasta....
Serve this with a nice salad and some garlic bread and you are all set for the troops!!!  

If you do not need to cook for a swarm of people, you might consider portioning this out into two separate meals.  Casseroles such as this freeze beautifully.  For freezing one, cool first and freeze unbaked.  Thaw overnight in the fridge.  Remove about 30 - 45 minutes before baking it.  You will probably need to bake it 55 - 60 minutes or until the center reaches about 165 degrees. 


I hope you enjoyed this simple and delicious recipe!
There are hundreds more in my Recipe Index, just waiting to be chosen and cooked!  You can also visit my Film strips for pinning page, to see whole recipes at a glance, and to click-and-go right to the recipe.

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Written Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  We'll start by heating up some 1 Tbsp canola oil and 2 Tbsp butter.  You'll need a large pan for this.  I chose a 12" pan with rather deep sides.   Once the oil and butter are sizzling, add in the chopped peppers and onions.   Now add in your crimini (baby bella) mushrooms.  Once the liquid in the bottom is all "used up," I added the other 2 Tbsp butter.  Give these all a few minutes to saute so the flavors can marry together.  While your veggies are cooking down, you need to have your water going for your pasta.  Cook them according to package directions for al dente (about 7 minutes).  They will cook more in the oven. 
 
Here's where you just start dumping things together.  Cream of celery soup.  Cream of chicken soup.  A can of Ro-Tel tomatoes.  Notice, I'm not draining the tomatoes first.  We are going to need all this liquid.  1 1/2 tsp garlic powder, then 2 - 3 tsp Creole seasoning.  1 cup of milk, 1 can of chicken broth.  

Add in chopped green onions, bring to a boil, then add 3 - 4 cups cooked chicken.   At the point where you add the chicken, turn off the heat.  You don't want the chicken to cook more than it has to.  Add the cooked, drained pasta to the sauce, then add the contents of your pan to a greased casserole dish.  Garnish with more green onions if you'd like. 

I love a bit of crunch on my food.  So I am going to add some crunch to half of the casserole dish.  I got to thinking of some ways folks usually top their casseroles..... bread crumbs, Panko, cracker crumbs... but staring at me from the shelf were these brightly colored tortilla strips.  Feel free to leave it naked if you are crunchy aversive.  Add your cheese and a bit more green onions to the top, and we are ready to bake.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes. 

If you do not need to cook for a swarm of people, you might consider portioning this out into two separate meals.  Casseroles such as this freeze beautifully.  For freezing one, cool first and freeze unbaked.  Thaw overnight in the fridge.  Remove about 30 - 45 minutes before baking it.  You will probably need to bake it 55 - 60 minutes or until the center reaches about 165 degrees. 

1 comment:

  1. made this tonight to bring over to the home of a friend whose husband died-doubled the recipe made a ton of food-it came out great did not have to adjust any seasonings everything was perfectI would highly recommend this for anyone cooking for a crowd

    ReplyDelete

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