First of all, if anyone reading this has a better name, let me know! The current title is accurate, of of course, but doesn’t reflect any of the character of the dish!
I was inspired by a post on the Kitchn for a Mediterranean-ish tomato, broccoli, and mozzarella pasta casserole. It sounded like a nice, hearty-but-healthy dinner dish…but I had this cheddar sitting around in the fridge that really needed to get used up. That train of though led to me to more of a macaroni & cheese-inspired casserole, with lemon juice swapped out for some mustard and cider vinegar, basil replaced with sage, and a bit less Parmesan (or Grana Padano, in my case). Absent any wheat-free farfalle in my cupboard, I used spelt fusilli. I think any kind of non-tubular, short-cut pasta would work well; since there isn’t much liquid in this recipe, I’d be concerned about short-cut hollow pasta like penne drying out.
Somewhat to my surprise, this experiment gets an almost-totally-unqualified thumbs-up! The mustard, sage, and cheddar flavors all work really well together, and are a great complement to hearty wholegrain pasta, juicy chicken, and tender broccoli. It’s fairly light for a casserole, but still “moreish,” as the Brits say. My only adjustments for next time would be to increase the amount of sage, mustard, and pepper, and maybe add some chile flakes or something for a bit more spice. Even as is, it’s a good dinner!
Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bake
Yield: 6-8 servings.
Adapted from The Kitchn.
Olive oil for the pan
6 oz/170 g farfalle or fusilli pasta
3/4 lb broccoli florets, frozen or fresh
3 ripe tomatoes
1/2 lb onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 c chopped, cooked chicken breast meat
1/2 c chopped sage leaves
1/3 lb mature cheddar, shredded
3 medium eggs
3/4 c cottage cheese
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp mustard
1/4 c grated Parmesan or Grana Padano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions minus 2-3 minutes, until barely al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
Steam the broccoli in the microwave or in a steamer basket on the stovetop, just until tender. Drain thoroughly and chop roughly into bite-sized florets. Toss with the cooked pasta. Chop two of the tomatoes into rough pieces, and add them to the pasta. Stir in the chopped onion and minced garlic, along with the chicken pieces and most of the chopped sage. Fold about 2/3 of the shredded cheddar into the pasta mixture.
Heat the oven to 375 F/190 C and lightly grease an 8×10-inch casserole dish with olive oil. (If it’s not deep enough, an 8- or 9-inch pie dish is a good overflow pan.)
Whisk the eggs with the cottage cheese, vinegar, and mustard. Stir in half the Parmesan. Stir this liquid into the pasta mixture until well combined. Stir in the salt and pepper.
Spread the pasta in the prepared baking dish. Slice the remaining tomato into half-moons and arrange on top of the pasta. Scatter remaining cheddar between the rows of tomato slices. Sprinkle remaining grated Parmesan on top.
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the cheese on top has melted and the casserole is bubbling. Remove from the oven. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.
Serving suggestion: warm from the oven or reheated, with a light side salad.