Pasta bake. I think it sounds a little bit more dignified than just a “casserole”. Not that there is anything wrong with a good casserole, they have just gotten a bad rap through the years. I don’t know if it’s because of the less than fresh contents inside of the casserole or just the thought of making it for one dinner and having leftovers for days. Growing up, my mom made a simple casserole we always looked forward to. It was mini pasta shells, canned tuna, a dash of cayenne pepper, and the liquid gold itself, velveeta cheese. I loved the spiciness and comfort of the dish. I also long for the days where the taste of velveeta overrides the guilt of eating something that isn’t actual cheese. Casseroles are great for the colder months but also great for families on the run. I’m all about the Make Once Get Two out of the deal meals where you make one for dinner and freeze the other. Just pop it in the oven whenever you get the hankering for a cozy but quick meal. Now, doesn’t that sound better?
Instead of opening a can of this, a container of that, and dumping it into a pan to be baked, I opted for a fresher take here. This pasta bake is inspired by one of our favorite dishes in Colonial Williamsburg. It consists of crepes stuffed with chicken and mushrooms and baked in a creamy sauce. It’s the perfect cure after a long and cold day of walking the cobblestone streets. Instead of making crepes, I substituted with pasta. I also added some licoricey (not a word, sorry!) fennel that sweetens as it cooks. Thyme makes everything a little bit better with it’s lemony yet slightly smokey flavor. It’s perfect for the cold months ahead and even more perfect with a glass of your favorite white wine!
The ingredient line up:
From Top Left to Right: Parmesan, garlic, shredded chicken (don’t get me started on my rotisserie chicken rant, it’s a life saver), milk, nutmeg, fresh thyme, breadcrumbs, onion, flour, fennel, cream, butter, and mushrooms. Somewhere in there is the pasta too. You just can’t see it. But it’s there. I didn’t forget it.
We make a rich, creamy sauce with our onions and fennel. Then, we just throw everything in. You won’t miss that canned stuff one bit!
Throw in our pasta. It doesn’t get easier. I love how the farfalle look here.
After a little oven time, the top gets brown and crunchy. Sprinkle with parsley to add a little color. I didn’t have any parsley… This is warm, comforting, and so simple to throw together. Perfect for the rainy, cold weather we will be having this weekend! Happy pasta making!