Friday, March 18, 2011

Lightened Up Baked Pasta

Is Spring Break over yet? Oh, I'm just kidding.  I just LOVE taking all 3 girls grocery shopping with me.  And sending them to their separate rooms serveral times throughout the day.  And doing more laundry because it's cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon, so they change clothes.  And telling them to please clean up their mess when they decide to play somewhere else.  All kidding aside, it was time to cook a grown up meal.  I've eaten all the tacos, cheeseburgers, and chicken tenders I can handle this week.  I needed a comfort meal, preferably one that my kids will also enjoy eating.

I found this recipe in my Cooking Light March 2011 issue. The original recipe is a vegetarian dish, but since we aren't vegetarians, I added chicken. I also added mushrooms (for me) and used chicken broth instead of white wine. The lemon adds so much flavor to this pasta.  I adjusted the recipe to include more sauce because this type of pasta soaks it up and it was a little dry after baking. I also had to photograph the leftovers the next morning to take advantage of natural lighting. (It was so much creamier at dinnertime.)You definitely have to plan ahead and allow time for this pasta dish to bake once it's assembled.  It's topped with an Italian Panko and parmesan breadcrumb mixture to give it a nice crunch.  You don't even have to bake this dish if you don't have the time or don't care for the crunchy topping.  You could simply boil the pasta until al dente, toss it all together, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.  Either way, it's a delicious and satisfying meal when you've had one of those days that only pasta can fix...and a little chocolate from some mint chocolate ice cream.


3/4 lb Barilla Campanelle pasta
5 oz. fresh spinach, stems removed
2 T olive oil, divided
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup flour
1 can low sodium chicken broth
3 cups reduced fat milk (I used 2%)
1 large lemon, zest and juice
kosher salt
black pepper
Italian seasoning
garlic powder
1 cup Italian Panko breadcrumbs, divided
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.  Heat a large deep skillet over medium high heat.  Add 1 T olive oil and cook the chicken until no longer pink.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water for 7 minutes, until just shy of al dente.  Turn off the heat, stir in the spinach, and let wilt for 2 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

In the same large skillet over medium heat, add another 1 T olive oil.  Add the onions and mushrooms and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Add the garlic and cook another minute.  Stir in the flour and cook for a minute.  Pour in the chicken broth and stir until flour is incorporated.  Add the milk, and season salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally.  This will take about 10-12 minutes.  Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice.  Taste and reseason if needed.

Add the chicken and pasta mixture to the sauce and toss to coat evenly.  Pour into the prepared casserole dish.  Sprinkle top with 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs, then 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, then the other 1/2 cup Panko.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bubbly.  Enjoy!

Note:  If you don't have the time to bake the pasta:  Boil the pasta until al dente, toss it together with the chicken and sauce, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.


  1. I thought those were leftovers...just kidding! :D

    I love this lightened up baked pasta. We had spring break early this year, but now we have to put up with the extra traffic from everyone elses spring break visit to Florida!

  2. Hi Rhondi! This is a great light meal. I'm adding this to my recipes it!

  3. Oh yumm! This looks right up my alley right now. I appreciate the addition of chicken and will try this. I don't think I've made a recipe from Cooking Light that I didn't like.

  4. Rhondi- I must make this! it looks wonderful an pasta isy favorite. Will any type of pasta work or is that kind you used something special?

  5. Katie, any type of pasta would work here and any of your favorite veggies too.


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