Chicken and Spinach Pasta Casserole

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My close friend, Cris, gave me this exceptional, savory, and yummy recipe.  The textures and flavors melt together so well.  It’s one of our favorites – and I’m not an extreme fan of casseroles, but this one is top notch.  One of the keys is getting the spinach quite dry.  I’m pretty confident you and your family will love this recipe.  It works well with plain cream cheese (even Neuchatel) or the flavored chive & onion variety.  Enjoy!

**A can of Hunt’s basil, garlic, and oregano diced tomatoes work very well here.  

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 oz. uncooked rigatoni (use whole wheat, if you wish)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (or use onion powder like I do)
  • 1 (10 oz.) pack frozen spinach, thawed
  • 3 cups cubed, cooked chicken breasts
  • 1 (14 oz.) can Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained**
  • 1 (8 oz.) container Philadelphia chive & onion cream cheese (or use plain or Neuchatel).
  • 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Prepare rigatoni according to package directions.
  2. Spread oil on bottom of 11×7″ baking dish.  I used a 9×13″ pan; I like a roomy dish.
  3. Add onion in a single layer.  Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes or just until tender.  Transfer onion to large bowl, set aside.
  4. Drain chopped spinach well, pressing between towels.
  5. Stir in rigatoni, spinach, chicken, and next four ingredients into onion in bowl – OR add your onion powder here.
  6. Spoon mixture into dish and sprinkle evenly with shredded mozzarella cheese.
  7. Bake covered at 375 F for 30 minutes.
  8. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more or until bubbly.

 

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