This Cheesy Chicken Bacon & Kale Pasta Bake is pure comfort food.
Grown up mac and cheese filled with chicken, kale, bacon, and sun dried tomatoes makes a complete meal!
Guess what I got to do? Another Chopped at Home challenge! Remember a few months ago I made a Cheesy Chicken Pasta Skillet? Well, I get to play again. This time my “basket” had Sargento® Chef Blends 4 State Cheddar, kale, oyster crackers, and bacon.
I told my cousin/bestie my ingredient list and she immediately said “ew”. She’s a terribly picky eater so that was to be expected, but I know she’d like this end result. I was excited to come up with something with these ingredients especially since I’ve never cooked kale. Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever even eaten kale. What kind of terrible foodie am I? Kale has been the new hotness the last couple years and I haven’t tried it. For some reason I expected it to be bitter but it’s not. It’s delicious, especially when you cover it in a 4 cheese blend.
I really felt like I was on Chopped. I had plans to make this over the weekend but my (super helpful) husband took my chicken and put it in the freezer. So that meant I had to make it after work, before Julia’s bedtime, and before I ran out of daylight to take its pics. I was playing beat the clock, plus it was about 85 degrees out and super humid. I was running around the kitchen, had three pots going, trying to entertain the baby, while sweating. True Chopped fashion – I got the full experience.
If you want to omit the chicken, feel free, it will be just as good as a side dish. It’s cheesy, creamy, and full of flavor with the blend of four cheddars and sun dried tomatoes. Sharp Wisconsin Cheddar, Sharp Vermont Cheddar, Sharp New York Cheddar and Mild California Cheddar cheeses come together to please the biggest cheese lovers.
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
- 3 cups kale, washed
- 2 slices bacon, chopped small
- ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, julienned
- 1.5 cups Sargento® Chef Blends Shredded 4 State Cheddar Cheese
- 1½ Tablespoons butter
- 1½ Tablespoons flour
- ¾ cup milk
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon onion salt
- ½ lb cavatappi
- 1 cup oyster crackers
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Once boiling, add in your cavatappi and cook until al dente. When pasta is almost done, add in the chopped kale and boil for 2 minutes. Drain into a colander, then return the noodles and kale to the large pot and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add your bacon and cook until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place onto a paper towel to absorb any excess grease.
- In the same skillet, add your chopped chicken and season with salt, pepper, and onion salt. Cook until no longer pink.
- In a small pot, melt the butter over medium high heat until bubbly. Whisk in the flour a little at a time, making sure to fully cook the flour. You're making a roux and it should be thick and pale yellow.
- Continue whisking and add in the milk. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens and is creamy. Season with a pinch of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Remove the mixture from heat and stir in 1 cup of the shredded 4 State Cheddar Cheese blend. Stir until fully melted and incorporated.
- Pour the cheese sauce into the pot of noodles. Add in the cooked chicken and thinly sliced sun dried tomatoes. Stir until fully combined.
- Pour your mixture into a 9x13 baking dish.
- In a large ziplock bag, add the cup of oyster crackers and remaining ½ cup of shredded cheese. Close the bag and crush the crackers. Pour the cracker/cheese combo over the top of the pasta, cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and you have a crust over the top.
Available in 30 versatile varieties, unique blends and distinct cuts, Sargento Shredded Cheese is always cut from blocks of 100% real, natural cheese. For more inspiration, check out the Sargento Pinterest page Pinterest.com/sargentocheese/ or visit Sargento.com for more information. The Chopped at Home Challenge gives viewers a chance to create their best recipe using the selected basket ingredients, including Sargento Shredded Cheese, for a chance to win $10,000!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Sargento. The opinions and text are all mine.