This just might be my new favourite dinner. I know, I probably use the term "new favourite" far too often, but the thing is, I almost always mean it. I usually pour on praise like this only to the meals that taste the best, but in this case, I'm bestowing it upon a dinner that is:
a) Easy to make
b) Uses leftovers and everyday popular pantry items
c) Was literally inhaled by the four hungry boys at my dinner table - itty bitty bites for the baby included
If I was to list a fourth consideration in hopes of convincing you that this dinner needs to find a place on your table it would be this: you can make it in advance, whenever it's convenient for you. If you want to assemble it the night before, while you're cleaning up the kitchen, go ahead. If you have 10 minutes of free time in the morning, you can get this put together and popped into the fridge until later in the day. Or, if you're home in the afternoon and your baby/toddler/small child naps (side note: if that's you tell me what it's like, because I have a nap-resistant infant and can't relate) you can whip this up by using just a few minutes of your free time.
Lastly, if you serve this with a side salad it yields enough leftovers for the school lunchbox, the definitive characteristic of a meal you really must make; and one that's sure to become a favourite for your family, too.
P.S. - I've started a new category over on the right side of the page. It's called 'Leftover Love' and it's where I'll store all recipes that make use of leftovers, like the chicken in this recipe.
Chicken Parmesan Pasta Bake
I almost always use frozen spinach in this recipe, but as you can see in the photos above, it was fresh spinach leaves that made it into my most recent batch. Either options works well, but if you happen to use fresh, sauté a 5 oz. package in a teaspoon or so of olive oil until completely wilted, before adding to the pasta and chicken mixture.
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
- 500g penne pasta, cooked
- 1 10-oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and drained of excess water
- 3 cups marinara sauce
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a small bowl stir together the panko, garlic powder, oregano, paprika and salt. Set aside.
3. Combine the cooked chicken, cooked pasta, spinach, and marinara sauce in a large bowl and mix well.
4. In a 9 x 13-inch ovenproof casserole or baking dish, layer the ingredients in the following order: pasta mixture, grated mozzarella, Parmesan, and panko blend. You should get three layers of each, ending with the panko.
5. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown and the pasta is warmed through. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.