It’s been a while since I have made a casserole, and that is really the go-to college student meal so it seemed like it was time. I actually am not really in love with casseroles, but they are really easy and usually inexpensive. I also really love penne so any casserole that involves penne is fine by me! The bookmarks on my computer are hilarious because they are all food-related. I have folders for blogs, recipes, culinary schools (in my dreams), bakeries, restaurants, tutorials, food photos, and the list goes on. The point of this is that I have a separate folder within my recipes folder just for penne recipes that I want to try. Before I got my new iMac for my birthday the bookmarks on my laptop were not organized at all. I would click on the list and have to scroll down for a good minute to find what I was looking for. I am determined to keep things organized this time around…starting with my penne folder!
I found this recipe on the Cooking Light website, but I wouldn’t really say that it is particularly healthy. I think they included it because there are lots of veggies, and it specifies that the milk and cheeses used should be reduced fat. I only ever buy skim milk and fat free cottage cheese anyways so it worked out nicely for me as I already had most of the ingredients for this. It came out super cheesy and delicious, and I would absolutely make this again. I cut it in half and used a 1 1/2 quart baking dish for it since I always have way too much leftover whenever I make a casserole.
You can buy cooked, shredded chicken if you prefer (I have been known to do that when I’m feeling lazy), or you can just cook some chicken breasts and shred them yourself. I bought some of the thin-cut, boneless, skinless chicken breasts both because they are a lot cheaper and because they cook much faster without having to be pounded out. I seasoned them with some salt and pepper and cooked them in a skillet with olive oil for about 3 minutes per side until they were cooked through. I am not sure if there is a special technique for shredding cooked chicken, but I always just pull it apart with two forks. The two-fork method has always worked for me!
Three-Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine
1 tsp olive oil
3 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano (I used 1 tsp dried oregano)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (16 oz) container 2% low-fat cottage cheese (I always buy fat free cottage cheese so that’s what I used, and I don’t think it took away from the taste)
4 cups hot cooked penne (about 8 oz uncooked)
2 cups shredded roasted boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk (I used skim)
1 (10 3/4 oz) can condensed reduced-fat, reduced-sodium cream of chicken soup, undiluted
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper; saute 4 minutes or until tender. Add spinach, oregano, and black pepper; saute 3 minutes or just until spinach wilts.
Place cottage cheese in a food processor; process until very smooth. Combine spinach mixture, cottage cheese, pasta, chicken, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, milk, and soup in a large bowl.
Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.