This was a great weekend dinner. I prepped it earlier in the day and then was free right up to dinner time to enjoy my busy weekend.
This dish had everything needed in one big baked dish: protein, carbs, and greens. I made the bechamel-style sauce lighter by using more broth than milk and it really helped to eliminate that heavy feeling you have after eating a big bowl of pasta.
Think about making this next weekend!
You will need:
4 tbs unsalted butter
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 chicken fillet (4 if small), cut into small bite-sized pieces
10 oz mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups sliced) – any mushroom: white, crimini, button
10 oz spinach, chopped
sea-salt & freshly ground black pepper (to season chicken)
3 tbs all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 cups chicken broth (or 2 cups water & 1 good quality bouillon cube)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (chili flakes)
1 lb rigatoni pasta (I use Barilla brand)
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or another strong hard cheese of your choice: cheddar, Pecorino Romano)
Preheat oven 350*
Put the pasta water with plenty of salt and cook rigatoni according to instructions and rinse with cold water in colander. Set aside until ready to assemble dish.
1 – Season chicken with sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put large saute pan on medium/high heat and add 1 tbs of butter and 1 tbs olive oil. Saute the chicken pieces in batches until cooked. As you cook sprinkle a little of the chili flakes over the chicken. Do not crowd the pan or the chicken will just get steamed and watery. Chicken batches will take about 5 to 6 minutes each. You will need to add more butter and oil as you go (only use 2 tablespoons of butter for this stage). Transfer to a plate as you go and cover with another plate or shallow bowl.
2 – Turn heat down to medium and add the rest of butter (2 tbs). Add the mushrooms and saute until nice and soft and starting to brown (about 10 minutes). Add chopped spinach and cover pan with lid for 1 minutes. Take lid off and stir. Turn off heat.
3 – Add the flour and mix well. Cook for about 1 minute before adding the milk and the broth 1 cup at a time, mixing well in between each cupful. The sauce will begin to thicken. Stir and continue to cook for about 4 or 5 minutes while sauce simmers and thickens. Turn off heat and stir in any remaining pepper flakes. Taste sauce for the addition of salt and pepper.
Assemble dish: Spread 1/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a buttered casserole (lasagna dish). Add 1/2 of the rigatoni.
Add all of the chicken in an even layer followed by the mushroom and spinach mixture. Top with 1/2 of the remaining sauce.
Cover veggie and chicken layer with the rest of the pasta followed by the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes, covering 1/2 way through if top is browned.
Let dish sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Serve with more grated cheese if you like.