It's probably not the type of dish that you'd make as often during the warmer months, but it's still a great recipe for the cool, damp or rainy days that most every part of the world gets at some point during the Summer. (like it is right now here on the east coast. yuck!) Hmmm. Now that I've said that, it's perfect timing for my friends in Australia and New Zealand, where Winter is just beginning. Ah, well... wherever it is that you happen to be, I hope you enjoy it!
Italian Chicken Pasta Bake
- 1 Lb Short Cut Pasta (like penne, fusilli or ziti)
- 1 Rotisserie Chicken, shredded
- 1/4 Lb Pancetta, chopped (regular bacon would work in a pinch)
- 1 Small Onion, chopped
- 2 and 1/2 Cups Half & Half, or 1 Pint of Heavy Cream plus 1/2 Cup Milk
- 2 Cup Fontina Cheese, shredded
- 1 Cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
- 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
- 1 Tsp each Dried Oregano and Dried Basil
- 1 Tsp each Onion Powder and Garlic Powder
- Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Pick the meat off of your rotisserie chicken and cut or shred it into reasonably bite-sized pieces. Of course, if you have your own cooked chicken, use that. Set it aside.
Fry the pancetta (or bacon, if that's what you have) until it's just crisp. Remove it with a slotted spoon to a small paper towel lined plate or bowl and set it aside.
While you're doing the rest of your prep, cook your pasta according to the package directions, but remove it from the heat and drain it a few minutes before the package recommends. You want the pasta to be slightly undercooked, because it will continue to cook and absorb some of the sauce as it's baking in the oven.
In the same pan where you cooked the pancetta, saute the onions in the drippings, until they're soft and golden brown.
Add the pancetta and onions to the bowl of chicken and combine thoroughly. Set it aside to allow the mixture to cool slightly.
Shred the Fontina and Mozzarella and grate the Parmesan (**if you're using a solid wedge) and toss them loosely together.
**If you noticed that I had several types of cheese in various bags, etc. in the first photo of the ingredients, it's because I wasn't sure which (of the many that I always seem to have in the fridge) I wanted to use in the recipe. I finally decided on the three that I did, because I wanted to keep this pasta bake more "Italian". I also had a wedge of parm that I was going to use and then realized I had some pre-grated reggiano in the fridge that was already opened, so I used it instead.
When the pasta is cooked and drained, combine it in a large mixing bowl with the half and half, or the heavy cream and milk, if that's what you're using) and add the dried herbs, onion and garlic powders and salt and pepper. Mix well.
When all of the ingredients have cooled off a little, add the chicken mixture to the pasta mixture and stir it well to combine. This mixture will be a bit loose and that's how you want it to be.
Add all but one cup of your combined cheeses to the bowl and mix that in.
Pour the fully combined mixture into a large baking or casserole dish and add the remaining cheeses on top. I like to sprinkle a bit of the dried oregano, basil and other seasonings on top for a little extra color and flavor.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in your preheated oven, until the top is golden brown and bubbly all over. Check on it at 30 minutes because 1) it can depend on how deep or shallow your baking dish is and 2) not all ovens are the same and yours might run a little hotter or cooler than mine.
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