This Tuscan Chicken Pasta Bake is cheesy, creamy, and so flavorful! Penne pasta is baked in the best homemade sauce and made hearty with bites of chicken spread throughout. Perfect for those crazy weeknights when you need something comforting and easy!
Table of Contents
- Why we love it:
- Ingredients Needed for Tuscan Chicken Pasta Bake
- How to make Tuscan Chicken Pasta Bake
- Recipe Tip
- Variations and Substitutions
- How to store Tuscan Chicken Pasta Bake
- Recipe Tip
- Can I make this ahead?
- Can I freeze Tuscan Chicken Pasta Bake?
- Serving suggestions:
- Tuscan Chicken Pasta Bake Recipe
As the weather drops, it’s time to whip out all of our favorite comfort food recipes! This creamy chicken pasta bake is stick-to-your-ribs comforting in the very best way.
It checks all the right boxes – creamy, cheesy, chicken-y, and SO easy. There’s a whole lot to love about this Tuscan chicken pasta!
Why we love it:
- Easy-Peasy – Yes! This recipe really simplifies the process of making homemade pasta sauce. Once you’ve got your sauce, noodles and chicken ready, you just toss it all together and let the oven do the rest of the work for you.
- Cheesy and Creamy – Ingredients like parmesan, mozzarella and heavy cream come together to create the best cheesy flavor and creamy consistency.
- Sneaky Spinach – If you have a picky eater seated at the table, have no fear. The spinach in this pasta bake recipe is so sneaky, they might not even notice it in there!
- It’s make-ahead-able! This recipe can be prepped right up to the point of baking, then refrigerated or frozen until you’re ready to bake it. More on this below 😉
Ingredients Needed for Tuscan Chicken Pasta Bake
- Pasta: It’s best to use a short pasta like penne, fusili or something similar so it really grips the sauce.
- Oil: Use a neutral oil like canola, olive or avocado.
- Chicken: As long as it’s boneless and skinless, it’ll work! Feel free to use either breast or thigh meat.
- Salt and Pepper: Just a few shakes of each, to taste.
- Butter: You can use salted or unsalted depending on what you prefer.
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes: This is what really creates that Tuscan flair! Be sure to thoroughly drain them before chopping.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic is preferred over pre-minced.
- Seasonings: You’ll need a simple medley of Italian seasoning, oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes.
- Broth: Low-sodium chicken broth creates great flavor without adding any more salt.
- Heavy Cream: To maintain that thick and creamy consistency, I don’t recommend swapping this ingredient with any other dairy product. If you must, a lighter cream can work (but the sauce will be thinner) or a lactose-free heavy cream will also work.
- Parmesan Cheese: If possible, try to freshly shred your own parmesan right off the block for the best flavor and texture.
- Mozzarella Cheese: This really seals the deal on that cheesy goodness!
- Fresh Spinach: for color and added nutrition!
How to make Tuscan Chicken Pasta Bake
This pasta bake recipe comes together in no time! Here’s a little sneak peek at the process. Scroll down to the recipe card for more info!
Before you get started, make sure you have all of your ingredients prepared and ready. It’s a fast moving recipe.
Make sure your pan isn’t too hot when you add the flour. You don’t want to burn the roux.
- Cook pasta to al dente and add to the baking dish.
- Season your chicken with a little salt and pepper, then toss it into a pan over medium heat and cook until lightly browned on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- In the same pan, melt some butter and add the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and seasonings. Cook for just a minute or two before stirring in the flour and cooking until absorbed.
- Slowly whisk in the broth and heavy cream. Cook until thickened.
- Stir in the parmesan and spinach
- Combine sauce with pasta and chicken in the baking dish. Top with more cheese and bake!
Variations and Substitutions
- Add more veggies: This recipe is pretty versatile. Dress it up even more with some mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, kale, or whatever else your heart desires!
- Change up the chicken: If you have any leftover Instant Pot Chicken Breast or Shredded Chicken, this is a great recipe to use it with.
- Broth: You can use vegetable broth instead if preferred. In fact, you can make the whole recipe vegetarian-friendly by omitting the chicken and swapping the broth.
How to store Tuscan Chicken Pasta Bake
Once it’s totally cooled to room temperature, you can store this chicken pasta bake in an airtight container in the fridge for about 2-3 days. Reheat individual portions in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until warmed all the way through.
I like to add a splash of water or broth when reheating pasta — it makes it perfectly sauce and never dry!
Can I make this ahead?
You can easily prep it and freeze it to finish making later!
Prep the recipe up to the point of baking, then cover with plastic wrap or tin foil. Refrigerate up to 4 days before baking!
Can I freeze Tuscan Chicken Pasta Bake?
Yes, definitely! High fat dairy always freezes best, so I would avoid freezing this if you swap out the heavy cream.
Assemble the casserole as instructed, but without the cheese topping. Do not bake. Once it’s cooled to room temp, wrap it in plastic wrap and foil. Store in the freezer for 2-3 months. When you’re ready to serve it, add the cheese and let it thaw in the fridge overnight before baking.
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Tuscan Chicken Pasta Bake
- 5 cups short pasta (340-390 grams) penne, fusili or similar
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken (about 2-3 breasts or 6 thighs)
- salt and pepper
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes drained and chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ⅛ – ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
- 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- Lightly grease one 9×13″ baking dish or two 8×8″ baking dishes. Turn the oven to 375 degrees F if cooking right away (instructions for making ahead or freezing below).
- Cook the pasta according to package directions (just to al dente), drain and place in the baking dish.
Make the pasta sauce
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Cut chicken into ½ – ¾" pieces.
- Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper and cook until lightly browned on all sides and cooked through (about 5-6 minutes). Place in the baking dish with the pasta.
- In the same skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the sun dried tomatoes, garlic, Italian seasoning, oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and cook 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in the flour until absorbed, and cook 1-2 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in the broth and cream until combined and smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until slightly thickened.
- Stir in the ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and spinach, then pour over the pasta and chicken in the baking dish. Stir to combine.
- Top with mozzarella and 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.
- Follow directions below to store for later, or cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly, then broil to brown the cheese if desired.
Ingredients and Substitutions:
- Pasta: any variety of pasta will work here, but I find short (but not too small) types work the best. Feel free to swap with gluten-free or whole grain pasta if desired.
- Chicken: we usually use chicken breasts in this recipe, but it’s also a great recipe if you have leftover Baked Chicken Breast or Crockpot Shredded Chicken. Feel free to leave it out for a meatless version or use Italian sausage, cooked bacon, or canned white beans instead.
- Broth: I always choose low sodium broth and adjust the salt as needed. If using salted broth, you may need to adjust the salt content. Feel free to swap for vegetable broth if needed.
- Cream: heavy cream creates a rich sauce and doesn’t break when cooking. If you want to swap for a lighter sauce, choose evaporated milk instead of regular milk. Regular milk can curdle when cooked.
- Spinach: fresh spinach adds a great pop of color and nutrition but there are lots of vegetables that work great in here! Tomatoes, mushrooms, kale, broccoli, peppers, and more. Be sure to cook the vegetables first unless they cook in just a couple minutes.
To make ahead:
- Refrigerator. Assemble the casserole, but don’t bake. Wrap tightly and store in the fridge for up to 2 days. When you’re ready to serve, just follow the baking instructions. You may need to add a splash of water or broth to thin the sauce.
- Freezer. Assemble the casserole without the cheese topping, and don’t bake. Cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and foil and store in the freezer for 2-3 months. When you’re ready to serve, add the cheese. To reheat, thaw it completely in the fridge overnight for best results, then remove the plastic wrap and follow the baking instructions (recommended for the best texture.)
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