Weekly weeknight dinner: Chicken and Veggie Pasta Bake

We make this meal at least once a fortnight and we’re not board with it yet! The best thing about the meal (as we make it) is that with the additional load of vegetables it makes enough for our family (including leftovers for lunch) as well as a meal to give to another family, or a meal to freeze. I find that cooking on a budget often means boosting the vegetable to meat ratio in most of the recipes I find. Even though we eat organic vegetables, it still works out MUCH cheaper (and healthier) to use more veg than is often specified. As I heard someone say yesterday, meat in meals should be an addition rather than the main ingredient.

The base of the recipe is from Amanda at Foodbefore5, however, as you’ve likely guessed by now, I’ve made a few changes! The main change is that I’ve included a LOAD of veg (again, are you surprised?). Try it – unless you’re a vegetarian you won’t be disappointed… but if you are a vegetarian, i reckon it would work without the chicken and bacon too!

Ingredients

  • 500g packet dried pasta
  • 500g chicken thigh (if you get your chicken from a butcher, ask them to dice it for you – it saves so much effort and makes the meal able to be easily prepared with a wee one at your side!)
  • 100g bacon – chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic – finely diced
  • 600ml cream
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste (salt free)
  • 50 gr semi-dried tomatoes – diced (more if you like – I just ask for a small scoop from the deli so there’s no wastage, or I make my own if tomatoes are in season)
  • 50 gr olives (more if you like,  I just ask for a small scoop from the deli so there’s no wastage)
  • 1/2 cup cheese – grated (plus extra for topping)
  • 1 broccoli – finely chopped including most of the stalk
  • 2 zucchinis – chopped
  • 3 flat mushrooms – chopped
  • 1 bunch silver beet – chopped (Kale, spinach or beetroot leaves can also be used)

Method

  1. In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to packet directions
  2. While pasta is cooking, fry chicken, bacon & garlic in a frypan over high heat until chicken is cooked through
  3. While chicken mix is cooking, in a large bowl whisk together cream and tomato paste.
  4. Add chopped veg, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and 1/2 cup of cheese to the cream mixture and combine
  5. Add cooked chicken mixture (minus the oil – I use a slotted spoon to only get the bits I want)
  6. Drain the pasta and line the bottom of the dish you want to use with the pasta (as the meal makes quite a lot, I use about half the pasta for a standard casserole dish)
  7. Add the proportionate amount of the food in the bowl (i.e. if you used half the pasta use half the mixture)
  8. Mix that together in the casserole dish (if you have an enormous bowl you can mix it with the pasta before putting them all in together, I find though that this is much less messy)
  9. Once combined, top your pasta bake with cheese
  10. Either cover and refrigerate until required or cook immediately. If cooking immediately, cook for 20 minutes covered and a further 10 minutes uncovered. If cooking from having been refrigerated, cook for 30 minutes covered and then a further 10 minutes uncovered.
  11. With the remaining food, make up another pasta bake for friends or else pop it in a freezer bag (combining the pasta and mixture) and freeze for up to three months.