SO SIMPLE SO DELICIOUS
And that heading is the summary of this recipe!
I always say that I’m awestruck that the simplest food combinations produce the tastiest meals and treats. Well, here’s another one.
Originally I saw this chicken pasta casserole made on a Mary Berry show. She said it was a family favorite that was particularly well loved by her grandchildren. In fact, this casserole is so easy, her grandsons made it on the show–with granny supervising of course!
Because I love chicken, I wanted to make this.
PAPRIKA FOR FLAVOR
The original recipe called for just plain paprika.
However, you’ll have a lot more flavor if you substitute the smoky variety. That type of paprika is not hot, it just has a nice deep flavor.
Of course, you can use the regular variety or even a hot paprika if your family likes a little zing in their food.
This spice also adds some color to this casserole. Overall, it would just be a whitish color and while taste is the main thing, adding a bit of color feeds your eye–and that’s important too.
MARY’S TIP FOR SAUCES
This tip proves that you can, indeed, teach an old dog new tricks.
I’ve been making white sauce, or bechamel sauce if you want to be fancy about it, for years. I always used milk right out of the fridge. But I found out that if you heat the milk, it results in a smoother sauce that reduces the cook time (DUH) so you don’t have to tire yourself out constantly stirring. The less stirring and nursing something I do, I consider that better for me. Babysitting something on the stove is one of my least-favorite jobs to do in the kitchen, so I was glad to pick this rather obvious tip up from Mary.
8 oz penne pasta uncooked
1 onion roughly chopped
3 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips roughly the size of your little finger
1 tbs smoky paprika
2 tbs olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce:
3 tbs butter
3 tbs flour
3 cups hot milk see tip
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3½ oz Parmesan cheese coarsely grated
2 large tomatoes deseeded and cut into small cubes
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Spray a 9 x9-inch baking dish/.
Cook the penne with the onion in boiling, salted water according to the packet instructions. Drain, refresh in cold water and leave to drain again in the colander.
Put the chicken strips in a resealable bag with the paprika and a little salt and pepper, seal the bag and shake to coat.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan and quickly fry the chicken over a high heat for about 2 minutes until golden-brown and just cooked through. If you have to fry in batches, use the additional tablespoon of oil. Remove from pan and set aside.
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the flour and whisk together to form a smooth paste (roux). Cook for 1 minute, then gradually add the hot milk, whisking over a high heat until the sauce is smooth and thickened, and allow to boil for 4 minutes. Stir in the mustard and half the cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Add the pasta and onion to the sauce in the pan and stir together. Spoon half this mixture into the dish, arrange the chicken strips over the top and spoon the remaining pasta and sauce on top of the chicken. Distribute the tomatoes evenly across the top and do the same with the remaining cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes until piping hot and golden-brown on top.