Cheap Recipe: Twice-Baked Chicken Pasta

5 Feb

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Monterey Jack & red peppers dress up citrus-flavored chicken.

Okay, so I know I’ve used chicken several times lately and roasted red peppers* more than once, but my philosophy is this: if I am still using leftover ingredients, and you made a recipe from this blog recently, chances are you’ve still got leftover ingredients to use up, too. I figured, why not post the remaining alternatives in close succession?

Anyway, this is a specialty of mine I invented when i was still in college and have been making ever since. It’s one of my brother’s favorite things to eat; I used to always make it for him on his birthday, and when he got married in 2005, I gifted his new wife with a cute little box of recipes for things he liked to eat, including this.

Individually flash-frozen chicken breasts in a bag are often cheaper than buying already-thawed chicken by the pound.

*If your discount grocery store doesn’t sell jars of roasted red peppers, you can always substitute a small amount of diced tomatoes, fresh veggies or whatever else they do have.

Roasted red peppers. Quick and easy.

I’ve played with many variations on this theme over the years, including fresh green peppers from the garden when in season, or big chunks of mushrooms. I’ve never been disappointed, so read this recipe with an open mind and try to think of other ingredients in your crisper drawer that can be saved from the compost pile with a well-timed batch of Twice-Baked Chicken Pasta!

(Since it’s the dead of winter right now, though, and produce isn’t on sale, I’m sticking with the canned peppers. You could easily roast your own, but for the sake of simplicity I didn’t. One little jar yields enough roasted peppers for three or 

Just tear 'em up by hand.

 four different recipes if you plan it right. Not bad for $1.69’s worth of something that can hang out in your fridge for weeks without going bad!)

And here we go:

Fast marinade.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9″x13″ glass baking dish and place about 1.5 lbs thawed, boneless chicken in the bottom. (You can use whole breasts, tenderloins–whatever you’ve got.) Top chicken with about 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, hand-torn into small pieces.

In a large measuring cup, combine about 1 cup orange juice with 1/4 cup honey and mix well. Stir in: 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and salt/pepper to taste. Or, you can save yourself time and buy a poultry seasoning packet. (They usually come with a free roaster bag, which you can either use for marinating or just throw away.)

Pour it on and let it soak in.

Once spices are stirred into juice mixture, pour the sauce over the raw chicken in the dish (or a marinating bag) and refrigerate. You can marinate for as little as 15 minutes, or as long as overnight, depending on how much time you have. (We’ll assume you only have 15 minutes for simplicity’s sake.)

Elbow macaroni is a good-sized pasta for this dish.

While chicken marinates in the fridge, bring a large pot of water to boil with about 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and a little bit of salt. Once rolling boil is achieved, reduce heat and throw in about 2 cups of uncooked elbow macaroni (or any other pasta you prefer). Simmer until al dente, remove from heat and drain. Leave drained macaroni in the pot until needed later.

Meanwhile, pop the now-marinated chicken into the preheated oven and allow to cook until internal temperature of 165 is reached. Oven time will vary from 15-30 minutes, depending on whether you’re using whole breasts, tenderloin strips, or whatever else, so keep an eye on it.

Leave chicken in the casserole dish with the sauce while cutting it into pieces.

Test chicken for doneness by cutting through a piece with a knife and fork at the thickest part of its center. If juice runs clear and meat is opaque in appearance, we have a winner!

Remove cooked chicken from oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Use fork/knife right there in your glass baking dish to cut meat into large bite-sized chunks. The marinade by this time should be starting to thicken in the bottom of the casserole dish.

Stir in firmly cooked pasta.

Dump drained, cooked pasta over the cooked meat and sauce. Mix well, gently lifting portions of the meat/pepper/sauce to the top of the pasta in different places around the pan for a good distribution of ingredients. Make sure no bland pockets of unsauced pasta jump out at you!

Top with cheese.

Sprinkle the pasta and chicken with about 1-1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese and place whole casserole (uncovered) back in the oven. Bake approximately 12-15 more minutes, or until cheese begins to melt and brown slightly.

Back into the oven until cheese is melty!

Spoon into dishes and serve immediately, or refrigerate leftovers. While dishing up the servings, be sure to use a non-slotted spoon to grab some of the sauce from the bottom of the pan and drizzle over the pasta. Then take your leftovers to work the next day and make the breakroom smell dee-lish and your coworkers jealous. 🙂

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