It’s a chilly day outside and Jack’s working, so I decided that I would make some comfort food for dinner. When I cook, I don’t really use recipes. Or perhaps I should say that I sometimes use them as basic guidelines, but I don’t follow them very closely. Most often, I look to see what ingredients I have in my pantry and then decide what I want to cook. I wanted to make something in the oven and I also wanted to use up some Velveeta cheese. I always have canned chicken breast here since it’s so easy to use and I don’t have to keep it refrigerated. It’s an easy “go to” for many things that I cook. For this dinner, I used one 12 oz. can with the broth.
I like Velveeta cheese, but I don’t use it too often. I had some left in the fridge that I wanted to use, so I cut it into small chunks. I used about 16 oz. because that’s how much I had and also because Jack loves macaroni and cheese. It’s one of his favorite things. You could use much less, like 8 oz., if you want to and the casserole would still be very good.
Frozen peas are something that I like to keep on hand. I love peas, but I feel like canned peas are a bit mushy for me. Frozen peas have a nice flavor and stay firm when cooking. I had about 1 1/2 cups of them in the freezer, so I decided to add them to this dish. You could use less or eliminate them completely if you don’t have them or don’t like them.
One small chopped onion was the next thing that I needed. When we bought onions this last time, I was going to get the large, sweet, yellow onions. Jack found a bag of smaller onions that was a much better price, so we got those instead. Oh my! My eyes wouldn’t quit watering while I was chopping them and I was having a hard time seeing by the time I was done. Next time we’ll spend a bit more and get the sweet onions, although these tasted very good.
One 16 oz. box of pasta was next on my list. I had several different types on hand, so I chose to use campenelle (kind of a bugle shape) to make it a little different.
I undercooked the pasta slightly since it was going to go in the oven. By under-cooking it, it doesn’t get too mushy since there is additional cooking time once all of the ingredients are combined. I prefer my pasta to be slightly firm and to hold it’s shape, not to be soft and flat.
Cream of chicken soup is another of those items that I keep on hand in the pantry. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s regular, low fat, or with herbs. What’s important is the creaminess and the flavor of it. Tonight I grabbed two cans and happened to get one regular and one with herbs.
I like to make as little mess as possible and also use as few pans as possible, so I dumped all of the ingredients into the pan I used for cooking the pasta. The cream of chicken soup went on top and I also added about 3/4 can of milk and 3/4 can of chicken broth (I keep chicken bouillon on hand to use when I need broth). It seems like a lot of liquid, but since the pasta is still firm, it will soak most of it up while baking.
When dumping the soup it’s difficult to get it all out of the can and I don’t like to waste any. I found these little spatulas that are great for getting into small cans and jars. I like that they’re both flat on the bottom and that the orange one has a little bit of a wing on the side to get under the top edge of pop-top cans. Very convenient and handy!
Time to get the baking dish ready. You could use several different sizes, but this one is about 13×9 (a 10×14 would also work). It’s a couple of inches deep and it was just right. If you wanted to, you could use a much smaller dish, such as an 8″ square, for part of the mixture and freeze the rest of it to cook another time. This will freeze just fine and will save you time another night. Spray the dish to keep with oil to keep the food from sticking and make clean-up easier.
Years ago I bought this refillable pump sprayer from Pampered Chef to use instead of aerosol sprays. We’re trying to be kind to the environment, so everything helps. Right? Anyway, I love this! I know you can get them at many different places and I would highly recommend that you get one. You fill it with whatever type of oil you prefer to use and then just pump it up a little before using.
You know how you end up with a bunch of small potato chips in the bottom of the bag that are too little to really eat? Well, years ago, like in the 50’s and 60’s, moms everywhere would crush them up and put them on top of tuna casseroles. So, guess what? Yep! Crushed chips on top of the casserole. You could easily use Panko (melt a little butter in a pan and stir the Panko in until it’s a bit coated) or buttered herbed bread crumbs.
This is the casserole waiting to go into the oven. It should cook at 350 * for 45 minutes. I loosely cover it with foil and then take the foil off during the last 10-15 minutes so the chips can crisp up a little.
Our finished casserole. Fresh out of the oven and piping hot.
Dinner is served! Chicken and noodle casserole with salad and a croissant. Yummy! Jack says it’s like gourmet macaroni and cheese!
Chicken Noodle Casserole
1 12 oz. can Chicken Breast
1 16 oz. box Pasta
8-16 oz. Velveeta Cheese (more or less depending on your taste)
1-1 1/2 cups Frozen Peas
1 Small Chopped Onion
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup, any variety
3/4 soup can Milk
3/4 soup can Chicken Broth
Crushed Potato Chips, Buttered Panko, or Buttered Herb Croutons for topping
Cook pasta until slightly underdone. Drain. Mix all ingredients except topping in pan. Pour into greased 13×9 baking dish. Top with either chips, Panko, or Croutons. Cover loosely with foil. Bake for 45 minutes at 350*. Remove foil during last 10-15 minutes.