I don’t really do casseroles. Partly because they’re usually heavy, relying on a can of cream of whatever soup (that stuff scares me) and a ton of cheese to “stick” everything together, partly because they look like doo-doo (have you ever seen a pretty casserole?) but the real reason is any time I’ve ever made a casserole it has been to use up leftovers. Aside from these tacos or this chicken meatloaf, I don’t really do leftovers either. For as much as I cook, I just don’t love the idea of repurposing one meal into another. Call me a snob (it wouldn’t be the first time) but it’s just the way I roll. My husband, however, will eat anything, multiple times and in any form so I can assure you little food goes to waste in our house.
But yesterday I didn’t feel like going to the store. I’d already been to Costco earlier in the day (that place drains me) and I couldn’t muster up the energy to go back out in the cold to gather ingredients for dinner. Standing in front of an almost barren fridge, my options were cold cereal or some leftover chicken and a half box of spinach. After rummaging up some almost wilting scallions and a little bit of mozzarella cheese, dinner was looking like it might not be so bad. I always have canned artichokes and pasta in my pantry so low and behold, I made a casserole. And it didn’t suck.
In fact, it was pretty darn good. It was flavorful, full of greens and not too heavy. It was a cinch to pull together and you know I love the make ahead factor. While it was baking in the oven, I was able to put all my Costco loot away, unload the dishwasher and read a few books with the kiddos. Winner, winner chicken dinner……
Am I a casserole convert after one successful bout? Unlikely. And I can promise you that I won’t be eating this today for lunch. That would be like eating leftover leftovers……and I just can’t go there. Or maybe I can. Because if I stay in my pajamas all day and don’t go to the store, this will be dinner all over again……
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- pinch salt and pepper
- 8 oz dried fettucini pasta, broken in half
- 1 1/2 cups diced, cooked, leftover chicken
- 1 can artichoke hearts packed in water, drained and roughly chopped
- 1 bunch scallions, washed and diced (whites and part of greens)
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 3 generous handfuls fresh spinach, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons bread crumbs (optional)
- 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
- In a large stock filled with salted water, bring to a boil. When water boils, cook fettucini 2 minutes less than what the package specifies. (It will finish cooking in the sauce in the oven.)
- Meanwhile, heat butter in a heavy bottomed stock pot. Add flour and cook 2-3 minutes stirring regularly. Add milk slowing, stirring constantly. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook about 5 minutes until sauce thickens. Turn the heat off and stir in both the mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Stir in garlic salt and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- To the sauce, add diced chicken, artichoke hearts, chopped scallions, capers, and spinach. When pasta is finished cooking, drain and add to the cheese sauce as well. Mix to cover all the noodles and veggies evenly with sauce.
- Transfer casserole mixture to a buttered 9x9 baking dish. If desired sprinkle with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, in a 350F degree oven for 45 minutes. Serve immediately.