Baked Cheesy Chicken Penne

Source: Real Mom Kitchen 




Sometimes you want to eat a home-cooked meal, but you don’t want to go through the trouble of actually cooking and then the dreaded clean up at the end.  Sometimes you want to eat a home-cooked meal, and you do feel like cooking that day and you don’t mind the cleaning afterwards.  That’s when it dawned on me, when I am in the mood to cook, might as well cook 2 meals to “cover” me on the days I don’t feel like cooking!  That way, we can eat a home-cooked meal on the spot!  This recipe is PERFECT for this type of situation because it makes 2 batches (1 for now and 1 for later) and it freezes well.
 

Ingredients: 
6 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dishes
kosher salt and black pepper
1 pound penne rigate 

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 8 ounces each), halved horizontally 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
6 garlic cloves, finely minced (I just get out my micro-plane and grate the garlic…watch the tip of your fingers!)
6 cups whole milk
10 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced 1 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone (6 ounces) 

1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 6 ounces)

My changes:
-Instead of using white or cremini mushrooms, I just buy which ever mushrooms look good that day.  Usually baby bello’s!
-Instead of provolone (I don’t understand provolone!  That is a whole separate post in itself!), I use gruyere or swiss.  Next time, I would like to try a nice gouda cheese.
-1 table spoon of italian seasoning or whatever dry herbs you like to the sauce and a sprinkle on top of the dish
-If I am not using dry herbs, I use fresh parsley
-Instead of cooking the chicken, and THEN cutting or shredding.  I either cube the raw chicken, season, and cook it because this reduces the cooking time OR I just buy a rotisserie chicken to shred or cube.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. Butter two shallow 2-quart baking dishes. If you’re going to freeze one, use a disposable foil pan.  In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes short of al dente; drain pasta and set aside.
While pasta is boiling, heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper; cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Halve each piece lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise.  While chicken pan is still hot, toss the mushrooms in and saute until golden brown (3-4 minutes).  Use a little extra olive oil if needed.

In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot , melt butter over medium. Add flour and garlic; cook, whisking, 1 minute. While whisking constantly, gradually add milk; bring to a simmer.  Keep whisking frequently as sauce thickens, about 1 minute more. Add mushrooms and tomatoes; cook 1 minute. Take the pan off the heat and and gradually stir in provolone and 1/2 cup Parmesan.
Add chicken and pasta to pot; season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide pasta mixture between baking dishes.  If freezing, place remaining parmesan cheese in a zip-top baggie.  If cooking, sprinkle on top.
Bake, uncovered, until top is golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


Freezer instructions:
To freeze, prepare through step 4 and then let pasta cool.  Cover pan well with plastic wrap.  Place extra cheese in baggie on top and then cover entire pan well with foil.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  To bake, preheat oven to 400.  Remove foil and plastic from pan and set cheese baggie aside.  Place foil back on pan and bake for about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove foil, stir pasta, and top with cheese.  Return pan to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until mixture is hot and bubbly throughout.

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