Budget Friendly Eats: Chicken and Cheese Pasta Bake

April 18, 2012

This easy chicken and cheese pasta bake is sure to be a winning dish in your household.  When it comes to saving money, pasta is an easy choice.  It is inexpensive and there are so many varieties to choose from.  If you have the extra cash, you might want to opt for the whole wheat option.  Tubular pastas like penne and rigatoni are great for pasta bakes because they hold their shape and retain that wonderful chewy texture.  Chicken and cheese pasta bake is a budget friendly meal that you'll want to make every week.

Chicken and Cheese Pasta Bake

Ingredients:

1 pound Penne Rigate--another short pasta will work as well
1 cup + ½ grated cheese--mozzarella, fontina, etc (a combination works well)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour plus extra flour for dredging chicken
2 cups of milk
1 bell pepper diced--any color will do
1/2 of a large yellow onion diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
garlic power
pepper
 
Directions:
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
 
Pound the chicken breasts with a mallet or pot until thin.  Heat olive oil in a skillet at medium-high heat.  Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and garlic power.  Dredge the chicken breasts in flour shaking off the excess.  Cook chicken until browned on each side--doesn't have to be cooked through.  Take chicken out and reserve.
 
Saute the onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a skillet until the onion is soft.  Remove from the skillet and reserve
 
Cook pasta in salted boiling water till just under al dente.  Drain pasta and put back in the pot that it was cooked in
 
Heat milk in a sauce pan until warmMelt butter in a sauce pan at medium heat.  Once melted, add the 3 tablespoons of flour.  Stir constantly to form the roux.  Add the milk and continue to stir.  Once the sauce becomes thick enough to barely coat the back of a wooden spoon, take it off the heat and add most of the cheese, salt, and pepper.
 
Dice the chicken into bite size pieces and add to the pasta.  Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the pasta and chicken.  Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, chicken, and vegetables.  Mix well to coat then transfer to a baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Top with remaining cheese plus Parmesan cheese.  Place in oven and cook until top is browned

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