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Dine-In: Update to an Old Classic Casserole

Creamy Chicken Pasta with SpinachThe cooler weather recently not only put an extra skip in my step, it had me craving s’mores, pumpkin bread and my grandmother’s hearty casseroles! It’s amazing what a little cooler temperature can do to bring a lift in your heart and much more energy than I’ve had the past few months of sweltering, humid air.

As I put on my fleece jacket to go walk my dog (yes, I tend to overdo my excitement. I think the temperature was actually about 85°F.), I decided to pull out my old family notebook of generations of recipes that have been passed down throughout the years. These recipes are quite comforting, bringing back old memories of visiting with my grandmother while she cooked away in her tiny little kitchen in Grenada, MS.

One of my favorites was her creamy pasta casserole she made with canned tuna, cream of mushroom soup, and elbow macaroni. I’ve updated it a little here and there over the years to suit my family’s taste, dropping the tuna and replacing it with leftover rotisserie chicken. I’ve also added a bit of spinach and taken the time to make a homemade sauce instead of the canned soup.

This is a perfect Friday night family-pleasing dinner, and so easy to do before you head out to the football game or head to your sofa to catch your favorite shows! Be sure to save the leftovers; the flavor gets even better the next day!

Creamy Chicken Pasta with Spinach
Serves 4

3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups low-fat milk (not skim)
Salt and black pepper to taste
3 slices of any kind of bread, torn into pieces
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 (10-oz) pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess liquid removed
2 cups leftover shredded cooked chicken
12 oz of your favorite pasta shells, cooked according to instructions on package

Preheat oven to 375°. Heat oil in a medium pot on the stove. Add onion and cook until softened, about five minutes. Add flour, stirring constantly. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine bread, Parmesan cheese and seasonings in a food processor, and pulse to make crumbs.

Add chicken and spinach to the cooled sauce. Gently fold in cooked pasta shells. Taste again for salt and pepper. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish that has been coated with nonstick cooking spray. Top with breadcrumb mixture.

Bake until bubbly and browned, about 20 minutes.

Nutritional Information: Calories per serving: 704, Fat: 32 g, Carbohydrates: 63 g, Protein: 42 g

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In

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