All ideas, recipes, & opinions are entirely my own. Tommy's Superfoods Samples were provided to me for this recipe and review.
I'm not sure why, but I've sort of been in pasta mode lately. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have so much stocked up in my pantry by now that I feel I need to dwindle down the boxes. When I got a beautiful fresh summer squash and two ears of local corn in this past week, I knew that I wanted to do something fun with pasta for an end-of-summer sort of casserole. With everything taking on a rather yellow color, I wanted to throw in some chopped spinach as well to give another hue. It's all about eating the rainbow.
I had actually done a test run of this recipe a couple weeks ago, and was pretty pleased with the results. Of course, I did make a few tweaks here and there to fine-tune. The whole idea of this dish was to be something quick and easy for a weeknight dinner while also giving a creamy-dreamy sort of 'mac-n-cheese' inspired bite, though maybe on a more adult level.
This pasta casserole is full of vegetables, as you can see. There's probably just as much vegetable in here as there is pasta, and that's the way I like it. To start this dish off, I used some of my favorite whole wheat penne that I cooked just to al dente. Why? Because it's going to continue to cook in the oven and we certainly don't want over cooked mushy pasta! The whole wheat pasta helps in this aspect too because it stays a little more firm than traditional noodles.
With that, I added two small ears of fresh corn straight from the cob, plenty of summer squash (probably the last I'll see until next summer), and a full 10 oz. of chopped spinach. Not just any spinach though, I used this new Tommy's Superfoods 'Super Greens'; which is a mix of spinach, greens, kale and lemon juice. That's it!
Of course, it wouldn't be a casserole without some chicken and cheese; so I added some of that in there too. Making my own béchamel style cheese sauce to tie it all together.
This is definitely one of my new favorites, and it's extremely versatile too. So if you have other end-of-summer vegetables waiting around to get used up, feel free to swap them out for some of the ones that I used here.
Zucchini would have been my first squash choice, but summer squash is what I had on hand. Some added red bell pepper or red onion would have also been a nice touch!
Cheesy Chicken & Vegetable Casserole
Servings: 6 • Size: About 1 1/2 Cup • Calories: 387.8 • Fat: 7 g • Saturated Fat: 0.9 • Carb: 47.3 g • Fiber: 7.2 g • Protein: 30.5 g • Sugar: 4.8 g • Sodium: 866.2 mg
1 Tbsp. Light Butter
1/3 C. Whole Wheat White Flour
3 C. Unsalted Chicken Broth
1 C. Reduced Fat 2% Milk
2 Tsp. Dried Thyme
1 Tsp. Salt
1 3/4 C. Reduced Fat Shredded Italian Cheese
9 Oz. (2 Small) Chicken Breast, Cooked & Shredded
8 Oz. Whole Wheat Penne, Cooked to Al Dente
1 Medium Zucchini or Yellow Summer Squash, Cubed
1 C. Fresh Corn Kernels
10 Oz. Frozen Chopped Greens, Thawed/Cooked & Drained (I Used Tommy's Super Greens.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and lightly coat the inside of a 13"x9" baking dish with non-stick spray; set aside.
In a large skillet or sauce pan, melt 1 Tbsp. butter over medium heat and whisk in 1/3 C. whole wheat white flour and 1 C. of the chicken broth; allow the mixture to thicken to a roux.
Once thickened, add in the remaining 2 C. of broth, 1 C. milk, 2 Tsp. Thyme, 1 Tsp. salt. Stir to combine and continue to stir while bringing just to a simmer.
With the mixture almost to a simmer and starting to thicken, remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 1 1/2 C. of the cheese until melted.
Season further with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, combine the 9 Oz. (2 Small) Chicken Breast, 8 Oz. Whole Wheat Penne, 1 Medium Zucchini or Yellow Summer Squash, 1 C. Fresh Corn Kernels and 10 Oz. Frozen Chopped Greens.
Stir in the cheese sauce until evenly dispersed.
Transfer the noodle mixture into the prepared baking dish; top with the remaining 1/4 C. of cheese.
Cover with foil and place in the oven to bake for 20-30 minutes.
Once done, remove from the oven and divide evenly among bowls.
Serve right away and enjoy!