16ozlinguine pastaor other pasta of your choice (Flat Long Noodles Like linguine, fettuccine, tagliatelle, and pappardelle make great options for this creamy pasta bake because the surface area of the pasta's flat shape can stand up against the heft of rich, creamy sauces. Tubular pasta like penne and ziti are other good choices!).
6tablespoonsunsalted butter divided
½white or yellow onion diced
2cupsof half and half,warm (You may use whole milk instead but the sauce won't be as creamy and velvety)
1cupchicken broth or stock
1 to 2teaspoonssalt
½teaspoonground black pepper(you may add a teaspoon of Italian seasoning if you want)
1cupcanned diced tomatoesdrained
1 ½cupscooked leftover chickenshredded such as rotisserie chicken or baked chicken breast
1cupshredded mild cheddar cheese(or any melting cheese of your choice)
1cupshredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil leavesoptional
Fresh oregano leavesoptional (You can replace these fresh herbs with chopped fresh parsley)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.
Cook and drain the pasta according to the directions in the package and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, melt 3 tablespoon of butter in a large and heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes until translucent. Do not let brown! Add the garlic powder, and chopped bacon, and let cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. Add the remaining 3 tablespoon of butter, let them melt, and then, stir in the flour to combine. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the half and half gradually while stirring, then the broth/stock, salt, and pepper. Whisk for 1 minute, in small circles around the frying pan, until it starts to thicken and become smooth (without flour lumps). Then add the diced tomatoes. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, for around 5 minutes or until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
Add the chicken, cooked pasta, and cheddar cheese and mix through. Let it cook for around 1 minute on the stove, then remove from heat.
Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 8 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 2 minutes.
Serve while it is still hot, garnished with fresh basil leaves and oregano. This chicken pasta bake can also be served with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese and fresh grape tomatoes on top. If you would like to, sprinkle on a few red pepper flakes, too.
STORAGEStore chicken pasta bake leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.Although not recommended, you can freeze it for up to one month.
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