1st Place winner of the Stovetop Recipe Round-Up and featured by the Gooseberry Patch Blog
July 15 2012
This dish was a happy accident in my kitchen. It was one of those moments in my kitchen where I had bits and pieces of ingredients, but, I had to get creative about how to stretch them into a pasta bake. I had roasted chicken, left over pasta from another project, spinach that was closing in on it's expiration date, a handful of sun dried tomatoes, half a jar of prepared basil pesto....and a couple of jars of Alfredo sauce in my pantry. My son had sweetly asked for Pasta Alfredo for dinner, and of course, I didn't want to disappoint him!
I had no intentions of posting the recipe for this dish on my blog, when I made it, but, it turned out so tasty, I wanted to share my idea with you in case you found yourself in the same dilemma one day. After one taste, and seeing my family's reaction, I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a few pictures, so, you could see it. I literally cleaned out my fridge when I made this dish, and it ended up leaving my family yellin' for more! The beauty of this dish, is, if you're hard pressed for time, it could be finished completely on the stove top and sprinkled with Parmesan and a few toasted pine nuts just before serving. It makes life so much less stressful when you can prepare a dish that's simple and versatile.
1 small finely diced onion
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 [15 oz] jars light creamy Alfredo sauce [I used Classico]
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup 1/3 less fat chive & onion cream cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup basil pesto [I used Classico]
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes, rinsed
3 cups roughly chopped roasted chicken
2 cups shredded Italian Cheese Blend, divided
4 cups cooked penne pasta
1 [6oz] pkg baby spinach
salt & black pepper to taste
For the topping:
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs or Italian cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp melted butter
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray an 8 x 12 inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large stove top pot over medium-high heat, cook the diced onion in a couple of drizzles of olive oil until it's translucent and beginning to brown. Season with salt and black pepper to your taste then add the crushed red pepper flakes for a little kick. [tip:Using a large pot will allow it to double as my mixing bowl.]
To the pot add both jars of Alfredo sauce, 1/2 cup of milk, and the cream cheese. Simmer on low heat just until the cream cheese melts. Add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of basil pesto, 1/3 cup of sun dried tomatoes, 3 cups chopped roasted chicken and 1 1/4 cups of shredded Italian cheese blend. Stir well.
Next, add the cooked penne pasta and the baby spinach. Cook over low heat just until the spinach wilts into the sauce. This will only take a couple of minutes. If you'd like your sauce a little thinner, add extra milk and stir, stir, stir!! [tip: At this point, you could skip the oven and serve this dish as is....All you'd need to do is, stir all of the cheese into the mixture and simmer on the stove top until heated through. Then sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese just before serving. For a little crunch, toss some toasted pine nuts on top]
Pour the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle the remaining shredded Italian cheese blend on top. To make the topping: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and toss with the crumbs. Sprinkle the buttered crumbs over the pasta. Place into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden and the edges are bubbly. Serve hot. Yield: 6-8 servings
Sun dried tomatoes are packed in oil. I recommend that you rinse the oil from the tomatoes for this dish, to prevent the flavor from overpowering the sauce.