Chicken Parm Pasta Bake

April 20, 2020 by Nicole Collins

The #quaratinefifteen is real!

Seriously though, does anyone feel like all bets are off right now?

I have absolutely no feeding schedule. I eat brunch, lunner, and 15 snacks a day. I'm eating more bread and potatoes than ever. And, I've eaten more pasta in the past month than I have my entire life.

On the plus side, I'm making lots of space in my pantry for a whole bunch of new things when I can shop at my leisure again!

Since I'm basically the pasta queen these days, it's only appropriate that we make some pasta together. And, that's just what we're going to do today.

So today, we're making Chicken Parm Pasta Bake!

Now, I actually tested this recipe before the world shut down. But, it's totally adaptable and relies on many ingredients that most people keep in their kitchens anyways. So, this is a super fun way to change up your dinner routine.

We start with some ground chicken. We're going to season the chicken with a little Italian seasoning and garlic powder, then let it cook completely through. Ground chicken kind of gets a bad reputation of being dry, but I think it has a nice soft texture once added to a sauce. You could absolutely used some small diced chicken tenders or breast here if you don't have ground chicken.

For our sauce, we're going to cheat a little and use a store bought marinara sauce. The sauce gets poured right over our seasoned chicken, jazzed up just a smidge, then it's ready to layer in our casserole dish.

For the pasta component of our dish, we want to use a short cut pasta. I used penne, because it's my absolute favorite cut of pasta. And, I also chose to use a whole wheat pasta. But, you could also use a rotini here, a rigatoni, or even a farfalle if that's what you have or what you like.

Now, it's time to layer. Mix the cooked pasta in with our meaty sauce, then layer half of it in a casserole dish. Top it with some freshly shredded parmesan cheese and some torn fresh mozzarella. Repeat, and bake! I like to shred the parm myself, because it melts better than the prebagged stuff. And, I'm OBSESSED with the the gooey way fresh mozzarella melts. But, if you don't have that available, pre shredded stuff in the bag will certainly work in a pinch.

When our bubbly casserole comes out of the oven, we have one last finishing touch to add...some breadcrumbs! Traditional chicken parm calls for breadcrumb coated chicken, so I figured why not breadcrumb coat our casserole!

What we have when everything is finished baking is a hug in a casserole dish. This pasta is so warm and comforting. It's loaded with all of the traditional flavors we know and love. It's cheesy and gooey. And, it's a lot closer to being healthy thanks to the wheat pasta and the poultry for beef swap out! So, I'm really doing you all a favor with this one.

I'm running low on fresh produce, so an inevitable grocery store trip is in my near future. And, I can't wait to load up on something that's not a carb. I KNOW! That's a bold statement right there.

I hope you all enjoy. And, let's eat!

Chicken Parm Pasta Bake

Serves: 4-6 Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 lb ground chicken

  • 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste

  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning

  • ½ tsp pepper, plus more to taste

  • ½ tsp garlic powder

  • 1 jar (24 oz) marinara sauce

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • 8 oz (½ box) whole wheat penne pasta

  • 2 oz finely shredded parmesan cheese

  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella, torn

  • olive oil cooking spray

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

  • 1/3 cup Italian seasoned panko breadcrumbs

  • chopped parsley, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Bring water for pasta to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat.

  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add ground chicken, 1/ tsp salt, Italian seasoning, ½ tsp pepper, and garlic powder. Stir well to combine. Cook until chicken is no longer pink. When chicken is fully cooked, add marinara sauce, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer sauce for about 10 mins, stirring occasionally.

  3. While the sauce simmers, salt the pasta water, and cook the pasta according to package directions until 1 minute shy of al dente. When the pasta is finished cooking, drain the pasta, and add the penne directly to the sauce. Stir to make sure the pasta is fully coated in the sauce. Remove from heat.

  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2 qt casserole dish with olive oil cooking spray. Layer half of the pasta mix into the dish, and top with half of both cheeses. Layer in remaining pasta, and top with remaining parmesan and mozzarella. Bake for 30 mins until the mozzarella just starts to brown, and the casserole is bubbling on the sides.

  5. During the last 5 mins of the casserole baking, heat butter in a small non stick skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and mix until the breadcrumbs are completely coated. Stir occasionally until the panko starts to toast and become golden brown. When the casserole is finished baking, sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs over the top of the casserole. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired. Serve!

Recipe notes:

*Try to time it so that your pasta and sauce are cooking at the same time. That way, you can take the pasta straight from water to the sauce. Plus, you can use the same timer!

*Use your favorite brand of marinara since we're not doing much to it to doctor it up. I actually really adore Aldi brand marinara. It has a great flavor. The brown sugar helps to cut some of the acid in the sauce, so don't skip that!

*You could certainly use regular pasta instead of whole wheat, but why would you. The biggest whole wheat pasta haters in the world would have no idea that we're using whole wheat pasta thanks to all of the sauce and cheese.

*I recommend using freshly shredded parmesan cheese for this. It melts better. Speaking of cheese, make sure you use fresh mozzarella for this. There's NOTHING like the cheesepull of fresh mozzarella!

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