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Cheesy Chicken and Pasta Bake

On a recent blog, I saw a cool way to hide veggies in pasta. The blogger peeled and diced a zucchini then added it to the boiling noodles. It has a similar consistency when mixed in with the noodles and sauce and you have to look really hard to see the zucchini among the pasta, peas and carrots.

pastabake3

We were trying to taste the zucchini in this recipe and couldn’t! I wanted to make a mac and cheese with this base, but then decided to add chicken, peas and carrots. We made this a few weekends ago for a group of kids that are somewhat picky eaters. They ranged from 15 months to 12 years old and it was a hit with them all! The adults even tried the “kid meal” and really liked it. Even if the kids picked out the peas and carrots, they were still getting the hidden veggies.  My evil plan worked!

This is a very easy recipe, perfect for weeknights. We used a rotisserie chicken and frozen peas and carrots to cut down on prep time. This dish has protein, veggies, dairy, and grains so its an entire meal in one easy dish. When I set out to make this, I wanted to have a creamy, cheesy base to tie it all together without using one of the fake “cheese food” items typically used for mac and cheese and no “cream of something or other” soup. Amazingly, real food such as milk, ricotta, parmesan and cheddar created this delicious creamy base.

I made this dish again last weekend(to ensure my measurements were right and get these pics) and to feed my boys last week while in California for work. It turned out great once again!

This creamy chicken pasta with veggies will be a hit with kiddos and grown-ups! 

Cheesy Chicken and Pasta Bake
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Ingredients
  1. 1 16oz box of medium shells
  2. 3-4 cups cooked and shredded chicken (we like a lot of chicken in ours)
  3. 1 medium or 2 small zucchini
  4. 1 cup milk
  5. 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
  6. 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
  7. 1 cup shredded cheddar (1/2 c in pasta and topped with 1/2 c)
  8. 3/4-1 cup frozen peas
  9. 3/4-1 cup frozen carrots, diced
  10. 1/2 t garlic powder
  11. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Peel and dice zucchini and bring a large stock pot of water to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, add shells and zucchini. Add peas and carrots when pasta is about 3-4 minutes from being done.
  4. Once noodles are al dente, drain and return to stock pot.
  5. Add milk and ricotta to the hot noodles and turn heat on medium/low heat.
  6. Stir until cheese is incorporated and add parmesan and 1/2 cup of cheddar.
  7. Cover for a few minutes until the cheese is melted.
  8. Add cooked chicken to pasta and stir to coat. Pour into a large baking dish and cover with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar.
  9. Cover and bake for 15 minutes.
Notes
  1. Peel the zucchini twice to get the dark and light green skin off. This makes it blend in with the noodles easier.
Our Plate http://our-plate.com/

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