Since starting Zumba a few weeks ago Wednesday nights are a little scattered. Zumba starts at 7, which I feel is an odd time. Should one eat dinner before class and risk feeling full while bouncing around to Latin rhythms? Or should one eat dinner after class and risk hunger pains and low blood sugar while gyrating to familiar, but lyric-less, hip hop songs?
After some serious thought last week, I opted to eat after class. In my absence I wanted to make sure DVH was left with something besides PB&J for his favorite meal of the day. And whenever I get to pick something exclusively for DVH, I pick pasta.
The original recipe for the Pesto & Chicken Penne Bake makes two 8″ square baking dishes. One can be baked right away and the other frozen for another night. There was no way I was going to give up more freezer space – most of the real estate in there belongs to our wedding cake topper, anyhow – so I halved the recipe.
This was such an easy
casserole “bake” (I don’t like that other word) to throw together and my only cautionary advice would be…use a really big bowl! When it comes time to add the cooked penne to the chicken mixture you’ll be dealing with quite a lot of volume, especially if you’re making the full, 2-pan, recipe.
By the way, this is a great recipe for using homemade pesto, but the jarred kind works just as well since it gets blended into the Alfredo sauce and cheese anyway.
We had garlic bread and salad with our Pesto & Chicken Penne Bake and enjoyed the left overs for a few days afterward. I keep thinking of a million different add-ins and substitutions that we could try in the future, like sun-dried tomatoes or chicken sausage or different breading options for the top. Endless possibilities
Pesto & Chicken Penne Bake
Source: Taste of Home
1 package (16 ounces) penne pasta
6 cups cubed cooked chicken
4 cups (16 ounces) shredded Italian cheese blend
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 jar (15 ounces) Alfredo sauce
1-1/2 cups 2% milk
1 jar (8.1 ounces) prepared pesto
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, cheese, spinach, tomatoes, Alfredo sauce, milk and pesto.
Add the cooked and drained pasta to the chicken mixture and toss to combine.
Transfer the mixture to two greased 8-inch square baking dishes.
In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and oil.
Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the two chicken dishes.
Cover and freeze one dish – it will be good in the freezer for up to 3 months*.
Cover and bake the remaining dish for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly.
*When you’re ready to use the frozen dish thaw it in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.