This Baked Chicken Cheese Pasta Casserole with Parmesan Breadcrumb Topping is an easy and delicious meal to make for your family or make for a friend.
Recently, a friend of ours asked me to make dinner for him and his two girls. His daughter had just had spinal surgery and as a single dad, he had more on his plate than he could handle. So, of course I was more than happy to oblige. The only problem was that I got started a little late getting dinner ready and before I knew it, I had only an hour to make dinner for his family and mine.
When I had asked our friend what his girls liked, he said chicken and pasta, so I made this one dish Chicken Cheese Pasta Casserole with Parmesan Breadcrumb Topping. Although I had intended to make my own sauce, I was short on time so used a jar of Trader Joe’s organic marinara sauce with mushrooms. This casserole is made mostly on the stovetop, then finished in the oven so the breadcrumb topping can get nicely browned.
This is not your ordinary baked ziti dish. Sautéed chicken pieces add some extra protein to this dish, and a crumbly breadcrumb and Parmesan cheese topping add a little special touch. This recipe is based on the Baked Pastina Casserole recipe in Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Pasta; however, when I first made her recipe a while back, I found it a little too plain for my taste. My version bumps up the flavor by seasoning the chicken before cooking it, using more garlic, adding oregano, and fresh basil. I also think the marinara sauce with mushrooms had more flavor than the plain chopped tomatoes the original recipe called for.
I divided this recipe into two 8-inch square pans, one for our friend, and one for my family. Sure enough, my friend and his girls loved this chicken pasta casserole. He kept asking what I put in it because it was unexpectedly flavorful. He especially liked the special breadcrumb topping.
This is a great recipe to have in your back pocket. It’s comes together quickly, and is great for making not only for your family but for others. So, make a batch and share it.
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½" cubes
- a few shakes of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large jar organic marinara sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- a few sprigs fresh basil
- 1 16-ounce pack gluten-free pasta
- 1 8-ounce pack shredded organic mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup gluten-free bread crumbs
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons organic butter, cut into small pieces
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, toss together chicken cubes, sea salt and black pepper.
- Heat oil in a large skillet and sauté onion and garlic until fragrant. Add chicken and sauté until just cooked through. Add marinara sauce, oregano and fresh basil; heat through.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pot; add chicken and sauce, along with mozzarella cheese; mix well. Divide between two 8-inch square dishes or pour the entire pot into a 13x9x2 inch casserole dish.
- In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on top of casserole dishes. Place the pieces of butter on top. Bake for 15 minutes; then broil for a 2-3 minutes to brown the top.