Monday 4 June 2018

Creamy Chicken Pasta Bake.

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Ok, so I know a pasta bake isn't the most summery of options for June.

But I also know, that many of us are fasting.
Ramadan 2018 is well into its 19th day and the fasts are actually getting longer as each day passes. Figuring out what to cook for Iftar is a daily struggle for us all and it might be made even more difficult as everyone gets back to school and work after the half-term break.
I mean yes, we all have good intentions to eat healthily and well in the evening. Some of us may even have meal planned or prepped for the Iftar week ahead. If you are one those incredible people, I salute you! But more often than not, what we end up cooking for Iftar is what we've been craving throughout the fasting day.

So yeah, even though we may have planned a chicken salad for tonight's fast break, the minute we see a crispy samosa or a plate of cheesy pasta bake on someone's Instagram feed, it's all we can think about until nightfall. Which is why in the heat of June, I'm sharing this creamy chicken pasta bake recipe with you even though it requires an oven turn on. This is one of my fasting cravings and I'm hoping it'll turn into your Iftar tonight.

But guys, this pasta bake is worth the extra heat because of how good it is. It's a Mary Berry recipe so you know it's going to be easy but epic. We'll toss cooked penne in a white cheese sauce before layering it in an oven dish with paprika chicken strips and finishing with a generous sprinkle of two classic ingredients that go so well together - cheese and tomato. That topping alone is one of the reasons why this pasta bake is so delicious. The pasta is wholemeal so fills us up properly, the cheese sauce ticks all the comfort food boxes and the chicken gives us our protein for the day. Get ready for this recipe to become a firm family favourite!

Pasta Bakes, previously: a light baked pasta // cheesy chicken pasta bake // creamy veggie pasta bake

A Simple List of Ingredients:
1. Penne
2. Onion
3. Chicken Breast
4. Paprika
5. Olive Oil
6. Butter
7. Plain Flour
8. Milk
9. Cheddar Cheese
10. Dijon Mustard
11. Tomatoes

Bismillah, let's begin!

First things first. Get the oven pre-heating at Gas Mark 7 or 220C or 200C Fan. Grease or butter a deep, shallow oven dish

Then, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.

We're going to cook our pasta in it. Today, I'm using a wholewheat penne but any shape will do.

Along with the pasta, we're also going to be cooking our onion in that same water. Sounds strange but this is a Mary Berry recipe, and if she tells you to boil your onion with the penne, you do it! Plus I've tested this recipe twice now and can safely say that it works!

So, while the water is coming to the boil, peel and roughly dice 1 Onion.

Once the water is boiling, throw in 250g Penne.

Along with the chopped onion.

Boil the two together according to the pasta packet instructions. Mine said to cook it for 10-12 minutes so that's what I did.

When the time is up, drain the pasta. Rinse it under cold water before leaving to drain until needed.

Next, let's cook up our chicken. Take 400g Chicken Breast which has been cut into small strips.

To it, add 1 tablespoon Paprika. This is just normal paprika, not the smoky kind. 

Add Salt and Black Pepper, to taste.

And, stir everything up. You can add other spices if you want but I liked the pasta bake with just paprika.

To cook the chicken, heat 1 tablespoon Olive Oil in a large pan over medium heat. When it's hot, add in the chicken pieces.

Stir fry the chicken for a few minutes until they're golden brown and just cooked through.

Move to a plate until needed.

Ok - so far we have cooked our pasta and our chicken. Next, we make the cheese sauce will bind the pasta bake together.

In a large pan, melt 50g Butter.

Throw in 50g Plain Flour.

Over a medium heat, stir the two constantly for 2 minutes. This is to cook out the flour. You'll know it's done when the mixture has a lovely toasted smell and is light brown in colour.

Then, gradually pour in 750ml Milk, preferably hot. Hot milk is best if you want a smooth sauce. Heat it in the microwave or in a pan on the cooker.

At first, the sauce will still remain thick. 

But as you continue pouring and stirring in the milk, it will loosen up and you'll have a proper sauce. Use a wooden spoon or whisk to stir the milk in gradually and prevent any lumps.

Once all the milk is in, let the sauce bubble gently for 4 minutes until it has thickened.

Then, throw in 50g Cheddar Cheese, grated. I prefer to grate my own but feel free to use the pre-grated stuff too.

Season with Salt and White Pepper, to taste. I like white pepper in my white sauce but black will work just as well.

Finally, add in 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard. You can also use any other mustard you like or leave it out if you're not a fan.

Stir everything in and let the cheese melt. Switch off the heat and taste for seasoning.

And with that, we're ready to assemble our pasta bake.

The first job is to bring together the cooked pasta and cheese sauce.

So, add the pasta to the sauce.

And, stir well until every piece of pasta is coated in the creamy sauce.

This is going to be good!

Next, spread 1/2 of the pasta in your dish.

Sprinkle over all the cooked chicken.

Before throwing on the rest of the pasta.

Spread out the pasta and we're nearly ready to bake. But first, toppings!

Take 4 small Tomatoes. Cut out the seeds.

And, cut each tomato into small cubes.

Sprinkle the tomatoes over the pasta.

And, finish with a scattering of cheese. 50g grated Cheddar Cheese to be precise.

The classic combination of cheese and tomato on top, especially when all melted and golden, is the best!

Bake the pasta for 20 minutes at Gas Mark 7 or 220C or 200C Fan.

When the pasta bake is bubbling, golden and melted on top, it's done!

Serve the pasta bake piping hot and watch it disappear!

Creamy Chicken Pasta Bake.

baked penne in white sauce with paprika chicken and a cheesy tomato topping.

Prep Time: About 45 minutes.
Cook Time: About 20 minutes.
Serves: About 6 people.


For the Pasta
250g Penne
1 Onion, peeled and roughly diced

For the Chicken
400g Chicken Breast, cut into small strips
1 tablespoon Paprika
Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon Olive Oil

For the Cheese Sauce
50g Butter
50g Plain Flour
750ml Milk, preferably hot
50g Cheddar Cheese, grated
Salt and White Pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard

To Bake
4 small Tomatoes, deseeded and cut into small cubes
50g Cheddar Cheese, grated

First job:
Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 7 or 220C or 200C Fan. Grease or butter a large shallow baking dish.

Boil the penne and onion:
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, add the penne and chopped onion. Cook according to the penne packet instructions - mine took 10-12 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside until needed.

Cook the chicken:
In a bowl, stir together the chicken strips, paprika, salt and black pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. When hot, add in the chicken and stir fry until the chicken is golden brown and just cooked through. Move to a plate until needed.

Cook the cheese sauce:
Melt the butter in a pan. Add the flour and stir for 2 minutes over medium heat. Gradually pour in the hot milk, stirring as you go, until you have a sauce. Let the sauce cook and bubble gently for 4 minutes until it's thick. Add in the cheese, salt, white pepper and Dijon mustard. Once the cheese has melted, taste and adjust the seasoning.

Assemble and bake:
Add the penne and onion to the cheese sauce and stir well. Put half into the oven dish and top with the chicken. Finish with the second half of pasta and smooth out. Sprinkle over the chopped tomatoes and grated cheese. Bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden brown and crispy.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Keep me in your Ramadan duas please, and enjoy your pasta bake!

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!

Spice Enthusiast
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