This cheesy pasta bake with chicken and bacon never fails to impress even my fussiest eaters! A great weeknight dinner to serve with a big side of salad. Easily make a gluten-free or even a vegetarian version if desired.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 large chicken breasts – cut into bite size chunks
- 6 rashers cooked bacon – chopped
- 1 large onion – peeled and chopped
- 120 ml double (heavy) cream
- 1 yellow bell pepper – de-seeded and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper – de-seeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 2 cloves garlic – peeled and minced
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 800 grams tinned chopped tomatoes
- 100 grams of fresh baby spinach
- 100 grams mozzarella – grated
- 100 grams strong cheddar cheese – grated
- 400 grams dried pasta shapes (I used rigatoni)
- Small bunch of parsley – roughly torn
- pinch of salt and pepper
Step 1: Prepare the oven. Preheat it to 190 degrees C or 375 degrees F. Cook the pasta in a large pan with boiling water for a minute less than the package directions. Drain when done.
Step 2: In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. To the hot oil, add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes. Then, add the onion and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 minutes or until the onions have softened. Next, add the chopped peppers, salt, pepper, garlic, tomato puree, oregano, and thyme. Stir and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
Step 3: To the pan, stir in the tinned tomatoes followed by the cream. Bring everything to a gentle boil. Add the pasta along with the spinach and cooked bacon. Stir well.
Step 4: To a large baking dish, transfer everything and sprinkle the cheddar and mozzarella on top. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.
Step 5: Remove from the oven when done and serve right away garnished with parsley. Enjoy!
Feel free to whip this up in advance to the point where you sprinkle the cheese on top. Allow the dish to cool before covering with foil. Place in the fridge for up to 1 day. An hour before cooking, remove from the fridge and chill. Heat in the oven for about 10 minutes at 190 degrees C or 375 degrees F, covered. Uncover and resume heating for 15 minutes more or until heated through. Keep in mind that the dish will be less saucy, so add a couple of tbsp stock or hot water before heating the pasta. You can freeze the cooked pasta. Allow it to cool, then cover and freeze. When ready to serve, defrost in the fridge overnight. Reheat for about 20 to 25 minutes at 190 degrees C or 375 degrees F, covered with foil, until heated through. For this recipe, I love to use rigatoni but feel free to use most pasta shapes such as Spiralli (pasta spirals), Penne (tubes cut on the diagonal), Fusilli (pasta twists), and Farfalle (pasta bows). The cooking time will be the same. If you want to make a vegetarian version of this pasta bake, you can swap the chicken with chunky pieces of courgette (zucchini) or mushroom. Entirely leave the bacon out or simply swap it with vegetarian chorizo or smoky chickpeas (chickpeas fried with smoked paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper). Make sure the cheeses you use are vegetarian versions. Want to make a gluten-free version? Simple. Substitute the pasta with gluten-free pasta and use a gluten-free tomato paste. For the cheese, make sure to use gluten-free, too.