When it comes to weeknight cooking, we want good food made with simple ingredients and a meal that the whole family will enjoy. And because we love to cook, we still want to put something on the table that is homemade and delicious. The secret is to have a few recipes on hand that help us to whip up a dinner that checks all of these boxes. Our cheesy herbed pasta is one example. Everyone is happy with this dinner: the kids get noodles, and the parents get chicken and vegetables – and a little cheese goes a long way to motivate everyone to eat everything.
Timing is everything on a meal like this, so while the pasta cooks, we work on our cheese sauce and dice up the vegetables. A cheesy cream sauce goes well with just about anything, so we make a sauce with a blend of cheeses: cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, and milk. Onion, garlic, and dried Italian herbs help to give the cheesy sauce some really delicious flavor, adding a savory element to the overall taste of the sauce. The chicken is shredded (or diced, if you prefer) and, along with the veggies and pasta, transferred to a baking dish. We pour the cheese sauce over everything and we add a little extra cheese just for good measure.
This is a great way to use up any leftovers in the fridge, especially those that might be at the end of their freshness and usability. We had some leftover chicken, half of an onion, a red bell pepper, and some broccoli florets (you can absolutely use frozen broccoli florets), all of which were “must use” items in our fridge. In an effort to waste not, want not we threw these all into the cheesy pasta mixture and the end result is a meal is colorful, hearty, and just beyond good. Dinner is on the table and we’ve got a meal that is both resourceful and super delicious.
Cheesy Herbed Pasta
- 2 cups rotini pasta, cooked according to package instructions for al dente
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 1 ½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 ½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- 2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Melt butter in an large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir frequently to prevent garlic from burning.
- Whisk in flour and cook until bubbly. Slowly add milk and whisk until sauce is smooth and thick. Add Italian seasonings, kosher salt, and black pepper.
- Turn off the heat and add 1 cup cheddar, 1 cup mozzarella, and ½ cup parmesan cheese. Stir until cheese has melted and become smooth in consistency.
- Scatter cooked chicken, broccoli, and bell pepper pieces into the prepared casserole dish. Top with cooked and cooled pasta.
- Pour cheese sauce over top of the pasta, chicken, and vegetables. Top with reserved ½ cup cheddar and ½ cup mozzarella cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove foil and continue to cook for an additional 5-7 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and just golden brown at the top and edges.
- Cool for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from 4 Sons 'R' Us.