Friday, January 15, 2016

Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta

Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta
Superbowl Game Day Food.  It's the one thing that can bring all the fans together, regardless of who's jersey they're wearing.  It's the one day we forget just how cold it is outside, what our New Year's fitness resolutions are and what time we have to be to work on Monday.  All food bets are off, the grill is fired up and the drinks are pouring.

I'm sure everyone has their favorite entree or meat dish ready for the grill, but when it comes to side dishes, I find that people often end up scratching their heads and opting for the store bought macaroni salad.  At a potluck, being the side dish supplier always takes a bit more thought than a salad, entree or dessert contributor.  Look and think no further my friends...this is the answer!

This Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta doesn't have too many ingredients or involve too much effort.  I purchased some prepared, boneless buffalo chicken tenders from the deli bar at my local grocery store, which made the recipe pretty seamless.  I'm sure the frozen kind would work as well, I just feel like the fresh ones were crispier and juicier.  You could also buy and/or make actual buffalo wings and drummies and remove the meat.

Rigatoni is a great pasta, but penne or ziti would work just as well.  You want something tubular or cylindrical, so the sauce and cheese got inside the centers and gave the dish great flavor and texture.

You can play with the flavors and measurements in the sauce, whatever your favorite wing sauce is would be just fine!

Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta

Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta
(topped here with Bleu Cheese crumbles)

  • 1 lb. rigatoni pasta
  • 1 lb. bacon, chopped
  • 4-5 scallions, chopped (green ends only)
  • 1 lb. prepared boneless buffalo chicken tenders or nuggets, chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup Marinara (I used Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Marinara)
  • 2/3 cup hot wing sauce
  • 2 cups shredded 3 cheese Italian blend
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. each salt and pepper, 
  • 1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles (optional garnish)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Fill a large pot with generously salted water and bring to a boil.  Add the pasta and par-boil it for about 5 minutes until al dente.  Drain and transfer to a large baking dish.
  3. Chop the chicken tenders and add them to the dish with the pasta.
  4. In a medium saucepan on medium heat, combine the heavy cream, marinara sauce and hot wing sauce. Stir until combined.  Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Adjust the ingredients and flavors to your liking with the hot sauce and marinara.  Stir until thickened, warm and bubbly, about 7 minutes.
  5. Stir the sauce and 1 cup of the cheese evenly into the mixture with the pasta and chicken.  Top the dish with the remaining 1 cup of cheese.  Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
  6. While the pasta is baking, fry the bacon in a large skillet on high heat until extra crispy.  Remove from the drippings with a slotted spoon, drain on a paper towel and allow the bits to cool.
  7. Chop the scallions and mix them together with the cooled bacon bits.
  8. Remove the dish from the oven after baking, uncover, and sprinkle the bacon/scallion mixture on top. Allow the dish to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.  Finish with bleu cheese crumbles if desired.

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