Here we go – another casserole. And this one came out really well! I actually got the idea for this from a recipe I’ve seen floating around on Pinterest. Not familiar with Pinterest, yet? You should be – I’ve gotten a LOT of great ideas for cooking from this site. But there’s a wealth of other areas besides food on this site, which I think still might be a beta version. I saw a similar dish on this site and came up with my own version here.
Now that the weather has gotten colder, I love having a hearty, warm casserole to eat on during the week. Oh, who am I kidding, I could eat a hearty, warm casserole pretty much any time of year. And I do. But, this was a delicious alternative to a typical tomato sauce-y pasta casserole bake. There are tomatoes in it, but no tomato sauce. There’s also spinach, onions, mushroom and garlic – what more could you want?? Oh – cheese? Yeah – got that too.
I started off by cooking the chicken – I had several boneless skinless breasts and I sauteed them up in some olive oil, butter and various sundry spices. I used the spices I have on hand while I’m still living in the temporary apartment. For this chicken, I sprinkled on some dried basil, dried oregano, black pepper, white pepper and coriander – which just added an additional, subtle level of flavor.
Once they were just cooked, I took them off the heat. Once they were cooled a bit, I diced them all up and set aside.
Then I started boiling the pasta – the recipe I got the idea for this from used rigatoni, so I used that as well.
In the same pan I cooked the chicken, I added fresh sliced mushrooms and tossed them around. After they soaked up a lot of the chicken ju-ju (don’t even act like you don’t know what I’m talking about) and wilted a bit, I added in a small chopped onion and sweated that for a bit as well. To really get things going, I also added in some fresh chopped garlic – talk about fragrant! I stirred this all around for a bit, letting the flavors come together. Then I added this mixture to the chopped chicken.
I also added a can of diced tomatoes, drained as much as possible and a package of frozen spinach that I had thawed and squeezed all the juice out of. Sidenote – don’t you just love it when a recipe calls for spinach that’s been thawed and ‘pat dry to remove excess liquid’. Pat dry? Who the heck is this ‘Pat Dry’?? What this really means is I’m going to wind up with a garbage can full of soggy wet, green paper towels which I have used to furiously squeeze a pitiful pile of spinach until I almost burst a vein in my forehead. Am I the only one who does this? Anyone?
Anyway, I added some nutmeg to the spinach and folded this with the tomatoes into the chicken and mushroom mixture until everything was just combined. Then I started layering everything in a greased dish – start with pasta, add the chicken and spinach mixture and top this with a layer of cottage cheese. Add another layer of pasta, a layer of chicken and spinach mixture and top this with a layer of mozzarella. Continue layering until everything is added and finish with the last of the mozzarella. If you’re not a fan of cottage cheese, then you could easily forego it and just add more mozzarella.
Bake this off at 375, covered for 15 and uncovered for 20-30 mins, until it’s nicely browned on top and bubbling on the sides. I think ‘nicely browned on top and bubbling on the sides’ is a universal indicator for when a casserole has finished cooking. Enjoy!
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3-4 Boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 small container baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 package rigatoni pasta
- 1 (10 oz) package of frozen spinach, thawed and ‘pat dry to remove excess liquid’
- 1 dash of nutmeg
- 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 (16 oz) container cottage cheese
- 1 (16 oz) package shredded mozzarella
Cook pasta according to directions. Melt butter in pan with olive oil. Sautee chicken until cooked well (be sure and add whatever spices/herbs you like). Set aside to cool and chop up. Slice mushrooms and sautee in the same pan. Heat until they start to wilt and add onions. Cook together for a few minutes on medium heat, until onions start to sweat. Add chopped garlic and cook together for a minute or so more.
Once the onions, mushrooms and garlic have cooked together and combine with the chopped chicken. Combine drained spinach and drained can of diced tomatoes – be sure to add the nutmeg to the spinach as well. Stir everything until mixed well. Add a layer of pasta to a greased casserole dish. Next, add the chicken and spinach mixture and top this with a layer of cottage cheese. Add another layer of pasta, a layer of chicken and spinach mixture and top this with a layer of mozzarella. Continue layering until everything is added and finish with the last of the mozzarella.
Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, until it’s browned on top and bubbling up on the sides.