Friday, June 18, 2010

Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake

I really like the flavor of pesto, but I'm kind of picky about it. It needs to be exactly the right combination of herb/oil/garlic or I am just not happy. I saw this post by Joelen for chicken pesto stuffed shells and I was intrigued. I didn't have any jumbo shells at my disposal, but decided to make this as a casserole by mixing with some medium sized pasta shells. This had a great flavor, but I think making this as a casserole dried out the pasta a little bit. I really liked how the cream cheese dilutes the heavy pesto flavor, though. I would say it "lightens it up" but it is cream cheese, so it isn't really lighter, just not as strong of a pesto flavor. Can't wait to try this again, but in the future, I'll stick with stuffed shells or maybe I'll throw this into a Calzone, as Joelen recommends. On a separate note, Joelen has recently posted a TON of freezer friendly meals, so if you are interested, check out her blog! This is one of those freezer friendly meals.

Pesto Chicken Casserole (Adapted from Joelen's Culinary Adventures)
1/2 lb short pasta (I used whole wheat med. shells)
1/4 cup prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used store rotisserie)
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
2 Tbs light sour cream
4 oz light cream cheese
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions, but stop cooking a few minutes early so that pasta is a little al dente. Drain. Meanwhile, add chicken, garlic, pesto, cream cheese and sour cream in a small saute pan and warm over medium heat until cheese is melted through and entire mixture is warm. Add parmigiano cheese and mix well to combine. Add drained pasta and mix well. Pour all into an 8" x 8" casserole sprayed with cooking spray. Top with mozzarella and bake in preheated. (Note: To reheat as leftovers, add 1-2 Tbs milk before microwaving)

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