This easy Chicken and Bacon Pasta Bake is made with the homemade Spinach dip combined with elbow macaroni, chicken and bacon! Creamy and cheesy pasta is smothered in a Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese sauce and then baked in a casserole dish until the perfect golden crust forms on top. Family favorite dinner recipe!
TIPS AND TRICKS
- What kind of chicken meat to use? Use boneless and skinless chicken meat, such as chicken breast, chicken tenderloins, or dark chicken meat. You can also use leftover cooked chicken.
- You can use either fresh or frozen spinach.
- Use store-bought spinach dip if you like. You can also use pre-made spinach and artichoke dip.
- Use any kind of short pasta: elbow macaroni, penne, rigatoni, small pasta shells.
- Pre-cook the bacon in the preheated oven at 375 F. Layer bacon strips in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake the bacon until it is cooked and crispy.
- This is a super versatile recipe, and you can add all kinds of veggies to this pasta bake. Add artichokes, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, bell peppers, or asparagus.
- You can easily freeze this pasta bake right in the casserole dish. Use it as meal prep dish.
If you want to use something other than regular bacon in your chicken pasta bake, here are some excellent choices:
- Prosciutto – an Italian dry-cured ham.
- Pancetta – an Italian bacon made of pork belly meat.
- Turkey bacon
- Duck bacon
MAKE THIS PASTA BAKE GLUTEN FREE
Because everything is made from scratch in this recipe, to make it gluten free all you have to do is use gluten free pasta. Gluten free brown rice elbow macaroni or penne pasta will work great. Tip: After cooking gluten free pasta al dente, make sure to rinse it with cold water to prevent it from getting mushy.
CAN YOU PUT RAW CHICKEN IN A PASTA BAKE?
No. There is too much of a risk that you’ll end up with undercooked chicken. Use either cooked sliced chicken (good way to use up some leftover chicken!). Or, quickly saute small-sized pieces of skinless, boneless chicken meat for about 3 minutes, without overcooking them. Baking the casserole dish in the oven for another 30 minutes will be enough to cook the chicken through.
DO YOU COOK PASTA BEFORE PASTA BAKE?
- It depends on the type of sauce you use and how long you cook the pasta bake in the oven. Remember that dry pasta needs to hydrate.
- If you use a very runny liquid/sauce for your baked pasta, such as milk or chicken broth, you can probably use uncooked pasta in your pasta bake. The pasta will easily absorb all the liquid during the baking process.
- If you use a thicker, creamier sauce, such as spinach dip, or other cheese-based sauce, you have to cook pasta before adding it to the pasta bake.
HOW DO YOU NOT OVERCOOK PASTA
- Cook pasta al dente, just long enough so that it is not hard but not soft either. The pasta should have a firm texture.
- Test the pasta 3 minutes before it’s ready to avoid overcooking.
- If you did over cook the pasta, rinse the pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process immediately.
SHOULD YOU RINSE PASTA
- Do not rinse pasta when serving it hot or with sauce. Generally, you don’t want to rinse pasta after cooking, especially if you plan to use the pasta with the sauce. Rinsing pasta removes the starch that helps hold and absorb the sauce. After cooking pasta al dente, drain it in a colander without rinsing it with water. This keeps the starch with pasta and allows the sauce to stick to pasta.
- Do rinse pasta when serving it cold or in a salad, or in a stir fry. Rinse the pasta if you want to prevent it from sticking together or if you want to use pasta in recipes, such as pasta salad or stir fries. In other words, rinse the pasta with cold water for recipes where you don’t want your pasta to be gummy or clump together.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN AND BACON PASTA BAKE
1) First, prepare all the ingredients for the pasta bake: cooked sliced chicken, drained cooked pasta, chopped cooked bacon, spinach dip.
2) Mix everything together and add to the casserole dish.
3) Top with shredded Mozzarella cheese.
HOW LONG DO YOU PUT PASTA BAKE IN THE OVEN
Bake it at 375 F in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then, broil for 3-4 minutes until golden brown on top.