Once the choice pieces of a roast are used up in salads or sandwiches, what's left often doesn't amount to much. The casserole has long been the go-to for the budget cook who has limited key ingredients and needs to stretch them as far as possible.
Heck, it's the go to for many who aren't budget cooks because they're easy and comforting. Really, it's a win-win situation for all parties concerned.
What I struggle with when I look for casserole recipes is the number that call for processed ingredients. I'll be honest, we don't keep cans of soup in our cupboards. So, I'm often left not having those ingredients that are deemed staples.
Thankfully, I remembered this recipe from Cooking Light from about a decade ago that had a homemade cheese sauce base! With the exception of the pesto I threw in, there's no processed ingredients here!
Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bake with Pesto
(inspired by an old recipe from Cooking Light)
1 head broccoli florets, cut into bite size pieces
3 cups (give or take) cubed roasted chicken
4 cups cooked pasta (about 8 oz uncooked)
½ yellow or red pepper, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
¼ cup pesto, plus additional for serving
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350º. Spray an 8"x8" casserole dish with cooking spray.
2. Steam broccoli florets briefly (4 minutes or so), or until vibrant green. Toss with chicken, pasta, pepper and basil.
3. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Sauté shallots and garlic for 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Sprinkle flour over top and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Grab a whisk, and begin to pour the milk in slooooowly, whisking constantly. Doing this will prevent lumps. Once all milk is incorporated, cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove pan from heat and stir in cheese and pesto. Let melt and then pour mixture over pasta-broccoli-chicken mixture. Toss to coat and place in casserole dish.
4. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with an additional dollop of pesto.