Cheesy Chicken Alfredo Baked Pasta

I love cheese. I love string cheese, cubed cheese, melted cheese—all kinds of cheese.

I usually try to eat fairly healthy during the week days, but one day I had to give in to my cheese craving. I wanted something ooey-gooey for dinner. I knew that I had plenty of shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses in my fridge, so I started there.

The first thing that came to mind was pasta with a creamy alfredo sauce. While I had a decadent dinner in mind, I didn't feel like going to the grocery store after work, so I definitely wanted to work with what I had at home.

I found a recipe from Tasty by Buzz Feed. You've probably seen their videos on your Facebook timeline. Their recipe uses penne pasta and cubed chicken. I worked with what I had in my cupboard to make recreate this cheesy masterpiece. Click here for the original recipe.

That morning, I brought out my crockpot to make shredded chicken. I knew I wanted to use this chicken in my lunch, but I figured I'd find more uses for it throughout the week.

When I got home from work, I shredded the chicken in the crockpot and turned it back on low so it could absorb more of the flavorful juices. 

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Next, I started boiling the water for the pasta. I raided my cupboard to asses my pasta options. While I did have penne, I didn't even have a half a cup in the box. I opted for the most full box which was the farfalle, or bow-tie pasta.

While the pasta cooked, I prepared a quick alfredo sauce. Back in my college days, my lazy dinner was always pasta with a bottled alfredo sauce. If I had realized how easy it was to make alfredo, I could have saved myself some money.

In a sauce pan, combine heavy cream, parmesan cheese, minced garlic and butter. Make sure to add the ingredients slowly over a low-medium heat.

Once the sauce was mixed, I turned the heat off and drained my pasta. I added the pasta to a large pan with the sauce and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. I used that time to add the shredded chicken. After that, I followed the rest of the recipe and layered the pasta with cheese.

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Since all the components to this dish are already warm, and mozzarella cheese doesn't take long to melt, all you need to do is get a nice browning on the top layer of parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

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The Tasty recipe calls for a low broil. My parents' oven has the perfect center flame for this. My oven does not. I baked the pasta off in the oven at 350 for 15 min. If I hadn't been so hungry, I would've left it in the oven for an additional five minutes to really give that top cheese a good tan.

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Despite my impatience, this baked pasta dish was exactly what I wanted. I had a cheese overload that I gladly welcomed. Next time, I'll try adding some broccoli to this dish.

Arielle Patterson