Chicken, Spinach, + Ranch Baked Penne
I love making baked pasta! I love how you can make them in advance, and everyone always loves them –it’s total comfort food. This dish has an alfredo-y taste, but it’s a lot lighter because it’s made with reduced fat cream cheese, pasta water, fat free Greek yogurt, and milk.
I made this ahead of time, refrigerated it overnight, and baked it the next day. If you bake yours right away, you may not need to add any milk. But when it sets overnight, the pasta tends to absorb extra liquid. I added about 1 cup. When you do add the milk, pour it carefully down the side of the casserole dish so it doesn’t splash all over the pasta.
Also, if you’re making this ahead of time, don’t add the parmesan and panko topping until right before you bake it (you don’t want them to get soggy).
This is one of my many recipes that uses Basic Baked Chicken. If you don’t have time to do that, you can always buy a rotisserie chicken cut it up instead.
Total Time: 2 hours (not including cooking the chicken)
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
1 recipe of Basic Baked Chicken (4 breasts)
1 pound whole wheat penne, cooked according to package instructions
8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup reserved pasta water
1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out
2 cups fat free Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons dry ranch seasoning
8 ounces freshly grated mozzarella
¾ cup parmesan cheese
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
½ – 1 cup of milk
- While the pasta cooks, begin dicing the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
- When the pasta is done, use a liquid measuring cup to reserve about 1 of pasta water before draining.
- Drain the pasta. Add the diced chicken, pasta, softened cream cheese, pasta water, frozen spinach, Greek yogurt, and ranch seasoning to a large bowl and thoroughly mix together.
- Once the pasta mixture has cooled to room temperature (or you can refrigerate for 15-20 minutes), add the grated mozzarella and the two eggs. Mix together thoroughly.
- Add the mixture to 1 full-sized and 1 half-sized casserole dish.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or refrigerate at this step if you’re making it ahead).
- Cover the pasta with a layer of parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
- Pour the milk (as needed) into the dish, in the side, not on top of the pasta.
- Cover the dish, and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Uncover, and continue to cook for an additional 25 minutes, or until the top is lightly brown and the pasta is bubbly.
- Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before serving.