Friday, August 19, 2016

Mexican Chicken Pasta

Last Year's Post:  Roasted Tomato Californian
Two Years Ago:   Chicken Gyros

I had some rotisserie chicken left over recently and was craving comfort food, so I decided to make a Mexican pasta mash-up.  As written, it's very kid-friendly assuming you use a mild salsa but you could easily make it spicier by using a hotter salsa or adding jalapenos.  Next time I'll try using cooked Mexican chorizo in place of the rotisserie chicken because I love spicy chorizo.  The chili powder gives it flavor without heat, but you could also substitute a spicier Mexican seasoning blend of your choice.

The spinach adds great nutrition that kids probably won't even notice.  Oddly, my favorite part was the corn chip garnish - the crunch and salt were great complements to the soft pasta and creamy cheese.  Of course, chips are my all-time favorite food so that might have something to do with it.

Depending on how many people you're feeding, this is a great recipe to divide between two baking dishes and freeze one for later.  It's perfect comfort food while being a little different than your typical Italian baked pasta dish.

print recipe
Mexican Chicken Pasta
Serves 6

Note: this recipe can be made more or less spicy based on the type of salsa used.  Adding jalapenos or substituting Mexican chorizo for chicken would also make it spicier. 

10-12 ounces rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons canola oil
½ onion, chopped
½ cup red or green bell pepper, chopped
3 ounce can mild chopped chiles, drained
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Non-stick cooking spray
2 cups salsa
16 ounces rigatoni or ziti pasta, cooked to al dente according to package directions
6 ounces shredded Mexican cheese blend
½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered (optional)
1 avocado, peeled and chopped, tossed with a little lemon juice (optional)
Corn chips or baked tortilla chips (optional, but the crunch factor is very good)

Preheat oven to 350d.

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, garlic powder and chili powder until the spices are evenly distributed.  Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and bell pepper and cook for 4-5 minutes until tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the spinach and chopped chiles.

Coat two (2-quart) or one (4-quart) baking dishes with cooking spray.  Spread half of the salsa on the bottom, then top with half the pasta, half the chicken, and half of the vegetable mixture.  Pour half of the remaining salsa over the vegetables and top with half of the cheese.  Repeat layering with the remaining pasta, chicken, vegetables and salsa (not cheese).

Bake, covered, for 30 to 35 minutes until heated through.  Uncover and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and place under the broiler for a few minutes to melt and brown the cheese, watching closely.  Let stand for five minutes before serving.  If desired, garnish with cherry tomatoes, avocado, and/or corn chips.

 If you used two baking dishes, the second dish may be covered and frozen.  Thaw overnight and continue with baking directions.

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