Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pesto-Chicken Pasta Casserole(s)

Yep, that's right.  Casseroles.  The dish I made for dinner tonight makes two Italian-inspired casseroles.  The best part, making two casseroles took no longer to do than one.  Now one pan is soaking in the sink (To my daughter:  dishwasher is still not empty) and the other pan is in the freezer where it will stay until I have a night where I need a hassle-free dinner.  Then I can pull it out of the freezer the night before, let it thaw in the fridge all day, and then bake it for an hour.  Presto!  A homemade dinner two months in the making.  (Reheating directions are at bottom of post.)

Of course, if you have a large family (or a teenage boy), you could also bake both casseroles and feed up to 12 people.

Pesto-Chicken Pasta Casseroles

16 ounces rotini, penne, or rigatoni
6 cups cooked cubed chicken
16 ounces shredded Mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
5 cups fresh spinach
1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 jar (15 ounces) Alfredo sauce
1 jar (8-10 ounces) pesto
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp olive oil

To freeze
Begin by cooking pasta according to package directions.  Drain well.  In large bowl, mix together pasta, chicken, cheese, spinach, crushed tomatoes, Alfredo sauce, pesto, and milk.  Divide mixture into two baking dishes (I used a 8x8 disposable foil pan for the one I am freezing and a 7x11 for the one I cooked today).

To eat
Note:  an option here is to substitute broccoli for the spinach.

To freeze:  Place casserole in freezer overnight.  Place in large freezer bag or vacuum seal once solid.  Use within 3 months.

Time to dig in!!!
In small bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil.  Divide evenly between two casseroles.  Bake casserole at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and top is browned.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I like to serve this with some garlic bread and a salad (I was lazy tonight, no salad).  Enjoy!!!

To serve frozen casserole:  Thaw casserole in refrigerator overnight.  Remove from fridge 30 minutes prior to baking.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until bubbly and browned on top.

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