Your Weeknight Dinner Plan: Last-Minute Mexican Chicken Pasta Bake
This week, I decided to try a little experiment. The challenge: to whip up a delicious, balanced dinner using only items that I already had in my pantry, fridge, or freezer. My cupboards were starting to get out of control, and the freezer definitely made my mum cringe the last time she was over. A little culinary spring cleaning was long overdue.
As I ransacked my cupboards, I stumbled upon all sorts of fabulous cooking gems—jarred salsa, black beans, and a small can of diced green chiles that was only three months past the expiration date (I like to live on the edge). Behind my wine fridge, I found cans of diced tomatoes (they never fit in the cupboard), and after digging through my freezer, I found organic chicken breasts, cheese, homemade chicken stock (mum would be proud), and frozen crème fraiche. I realize the crème fraiche is a bit random, but I bought a giant one at Costco and never got around to using it, so rather than feeling guilty about throwing it out I figured I’d throw it in the black hole that is my freezer.
My first thought was tacos, but then I realized I had nothing fresh in my apartment, not even an onion. And tacos just aren't as fun when you can’t pile them high with toppings galore! So I created something else, and the result was fabulous. I’m glad to say I now have another recipe in my repertoire that I can whip together with minimal effort and hardly any prep work.
This dish would be great for a party, since you can make it ahead of time, but is easy enough to throw together for a last minute dinner, too. I’d love to hear what some of your favorite pantry-staple meals are—please share in the comments section!
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees, then mix together the salsa, diced green chiles, diced tomatoes, and chicken stock in a large pot. Place the chicken breasts in the salsa mixture, then place a lid on the pot and pop it in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, boil some water and cook your pasta according to the package directions. After 30 minutes, take the chicken out of the oven and use two forks to shred it into bite-sized pieces.
Add a can of black beans, then mix together with the cooked pasta and the crème fraiche or cream cheese.
Pour the mixture into an oven safe dish and top with the grated cheese. At this point, you can cover with foil and leave it in the fridge until you’re ready for dinner.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling slightly around the edges.
Serve immediately! You should get at least 4 servings out of this recipe.
Photos courtesy of Niki Lowry.
Niki comes to us from the financial world, but she’s an online girl at heart. After graduating from Cal, she spent a couple of years traveling and working (Ireland – NY – OC) before finally making it back to San Francisco to pursue a career in business and marketing. An avid fan of handwritten thank you notes, Niki also loves fresh flowers for any occasion, the sound of being underwater, and she firmly believes ketchup bottles do not belong on the breakfast table. When she’s not Musing, you can find her on her blog, wandering around the Ferry Building in San Francisco, or with her nose in a ridiculously addicting YA book.More from this Author