In the week that I’ve been writing this blog, I think I established that I love pasta. It’s such a quick thing to make in the evenings for dinner, and while I may try more involved recipes, if it’s something pasta-related, I’ll usually give it a try. Last week was on the cold side, so I decided that baking something for dinner would be a good way to warm up the apartment, give the boy and myself dinner, and maybe get a few lunches for the week out of it. I searched my recipe collection (it’s all in my email) to find a pasta bake, and one for a chicken pasta bake with spinach popped up on my radar. I had most of the ingredients already, so it would be easy enough to put on the queue without having to haul lots of bags home from the market.
Guys – this is a winner. My main problem with cooking things in “one skillet” is that my skillet is not quite large/deep enough, so I have a hard time fitting everything in without it spilling out, but it was so worth it (and I cleaned up the puddle of sauce that went over the side afterwards). It’s basically four simple cooking skills: boiling pasta, cooking chicken with greens, and making a simple sauce. Then you mix the pasta and chicken/greens mixture together in the dish (I did it with my hands, which was kind of slimy and fun), and pour the sauce over top, sprinkle it with cheese, and pop it in the oven. So simple, and it bakes long enough to let you clean everything up. I forgot to add the lemon zest, and while I’m sure it adds a brightness to the overall flavor, I still enjoyed it thoroughly.
The recipe says that it freezes well. I didn’t have a chance to test that. The boy and I ate about two servings worth each (his verdict: “Creamy and delicious”), I had three days left for lunches, and a double serving that we ate for dinner a few nights later with salad. It reheats well, and I imagine that if I made enough so that I could tuck it in the freezer (I would need a bigger freezer – and maybe more pans!), it would also freeze and reheat well from there. Maybe the lesson is that I need to save this for a Sunday and make a big double batch – half for the future, and and half to gobble up immediately.
Chicken Pasta Bake with Spinach & Parmesan
1 pound pasta, such as fusilli
Coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound chicken breast, diced into 1-inch pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
10 ounces baby spinach, about 8 packed cups, roughly chopped
2 shallots, diced
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/3 cup flour
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup nonfat yogurt
4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 lemon, zested
Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish, or two 9×9-inch baking dishes.
Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Salt generously. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. When it reaches al dente, drain.
While the pasta water is boiling and the pasta cooks, heat a deep sauté pan over high heat and add the olive oil. When it shimmers, add the chicken pieces and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes, not moving the pieces and letting them brown, then stir and brown the other side. Add the chopped greens, letting handfuls wilt down first if necessary, and cook just until half wilted. Spread in the prepared baking dish (or divide between two dishes). Add the diced shallots and toss.
Wipe out the sauté pan and return to medium heat. Add the butter and melt. Whisk in the flour and cook for 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt, 3/4 of the Parmesan cheese, and lemon zest. Add 1 teaspoon salt and a generous quantity of black pepper.
Toss the pasta with the chicken and spinach in the baking dish (or dishes), using a spoon or your hands to mix thoroughly. Pour the sauce over top and mix. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 25 minutes or until hot through and slightly browned on top.
From: The Kitchn (see their post for freezing instructions)