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Dine-In: Chicken-veggie-pasta bake

I love baked pasta dishes – so warm and hearty, and once you’ve gotten all the initial prep work done, dinner’s pretty much taken care of.

This dish is full of healthy goodness, and gets lots of texture and flavor, from all the veggies. In fact, you can even leave out the chicken, substitute a good vegetable stock for the chicken broth, and have a satisfying vegetarian meal.

Make sure you cook the pasta until just barely al dente, so that it does not get too mushy during the baking process.

I serve this with a Caesar salad and garlic bread. It makes a nice big pan, so invite some friends – or save it for yourself, because it tastes just as good reheated for lunch the next day.

Chicken and Vegetable Pasta Bake

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (trim fat and dice in cubes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and cracked pepper to taste
1 medium red onion, julienned (sliced in thin batons)
1 bunch fresh asparagus (remove tough stems and cut in 1 inch pieces)
1 broccoli crown (cut in florettes)
1 cup shredded carrots
1 zucchini, thinly cut in 1/2 moons
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in ½
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups heavy cream or half and half
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound penne pasta

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and cracked pepper. Saute chicken in two tablespoons of olive oil till fully cooked. Set aside.

Boil pasta just till al dente, and shock in cold water to stop the cooking process and avoid overcooked, soggy pasta. Set aside.

Heat butter and oil in large saute pan until butter is melted. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft.  Add asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, and carrots, cook until vegetables are softened.  Pour all remaining ingredients except for pasta and mozzarella cheese in a bowl and toss well. Add pasta and toss again.  Pour into a large greased casserole dish and top with shredded mozzarella.  Bake at 325 for about a half hour till golden and bubbly.

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