Chicken Pasta Bake

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I have a picky eater in my household, my middle daughter. I love her to pieces but she is not adventurous with her eating.

This chicken pasta bake recipe is her absolute favorite. An added bonus is that everybody in our family enjoys it and it is loaded with vegetables!

A slate blue rectangular ceramic baking dish filled with a cheesy chicken pasta bake

Why This Recipe Works

  • Loaded with both hidden and visible vegetables
  • Family-friendly a meal loved by young and old.
  • Comforting, filling and familiar, the type of recipe that becomes a family favourite.

Ingredients you will need

To make my chicken pasta bake you will need the following:

  • Chicken and pasta (well that goes without saying.
  • Vegetables: Spinach and Cauliflower
  • Pantry basics: Butter, flour, milk, chicken stock
The ingredients to make chicken pasta bake laid out on a blue bench top with text overlay.

Substitutes

  • Chicken: I have made this recipe with firm tofu.
  • Pasta: Any pasta will work in this pasta bake, although I prefer penne, rigatoni, or macaroni.
  • Spinach: The fresh spinach leaves can be substituted for frozen or another leafy green vegetable such as kale, silverbeet or swiss chard.
  • Cauliflower: I have made this recipe with zucchini as an alternative.
  • Milk: This can be substituted for any milk alternative (soy, rice, oat, almond, coconut)
  • Butter: This can be substituted for butter or oil
  • Cheese: I like to use a strong tasty cheddar.

I am an ambassador for Countdown supermarket, they support my blog by providing ingredients for recipe creation and testing. I used , cheese and penne pasta from their range in this recipe.


Step by step instructions

I will confess the list of instructions for this pasta bake is quite long, there are a number if steps. But please know now of the steps are difficult. I have included images of the steps, if you scroll down the page you will find them, because as they say a picture is worth 1000 words.

Prep

  • Pasta: Pop on a large pot of water to boil- once boiling cook the pasta. (Use the packet directions as a guide for cooking time, as the pasta will also be baked I tend to cook the pasta for approximately two-thirds of the suggested cooking time), but while this is happening you can move on to the other steps (photo 1).
  • Chicken: Heat a pan and brown your chicken (photo 2).
  • Veggies: Cut the cauliflower into florets, add to a second pot, cover with water and bring to boil, leave to boil until tender (photo 3).
  • Oven Heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (360 F).

Make the cheese sauce

  • Add butter to a third smaller pot, heat over a medium/low heat until melted (photo 4).
  • Heat your milk and stock (you don't have to, but the sauce making is much faster with warmed milk and stock) I actually put the milk and stock in one jug and warm them mixed together (photo 6).
  • Add the flour to the pot and cook-off for the basis of your roux/white sauce (photo 5).
  • Gradually add the milk and stock to create a thick velvety sauce (photo 7).
  • Add cheese to the white sauce and allow it to melt into the sauce (photo 8). Once done remove from the heat (you do not want a white sauce to boil, as it goes runny)

A bit more prep

  • Pasta: Remember to check back on your pasta water and cook your pasta as per the packet instructions, once ready drain thoroughly
  • Veggies: Remember to check on your cauliflower, once tender add 2 handfuls of spinach to the pot and let steam until wilted for a few minutes.
  • Veggies: Drain the water from the cauliflower and spinach, blend to create a purée. I use a stick blender to do this. (photo 1).

Make the pasta bake

  • Add the veggie purée to the cheese sauce and mix (do this in whichever is the bigger pot, ie the white sauce pot or the cauliflower pot (photo 2). Be sure to taste the sauce at this stage, season with salt and pepper to your tastes.
  • Mix the sauce mixture and with the cooked pasta and browned chicken, add one more handful of spinach if desired and mix through (photo 3).
  • Pop the pasta mix into a baking/lasagna dish, top with grated cheese (photo 4-5).
  • Bake in an oven at 180 degrees for 30-35mins, until cheese, is melted and golden (photo 6).
8 photo collage with text overlay showing the preparation required to make chicken pasta bake.
6 photo collage showing the key steps to preparing chicken pasta bake, with text overlay.

A spoonful of pasta bake being served from a large baking dish.

Vegetable Loaded Pasta bake

This Chicken Pasta Bake is a mixed vegetable meal. By this I mean it does have some hidden veggies but also some loud and proud veggies too!

I am not adverse to sneaking some veggies into my kids diet as long as there are some loud and proud veggies served too. By loud and proud I mean veggies that are instantly recognizable as vegetables.

Cauliflower is the completely hidden vegetable, it is puréed and added to the white sauce.

Spinach is a mixed vegetable. It is in disguise a little puréed into the sauce but there are also some whole leaves floating around too!

For my middle daughter texture is quite a big thing, so she merrily eats this family-friendly chicken pasta bake recipe with spinach even though it is clearly green! But she does steer clear of the overt spinach leaves I also add, but that is ok by me.

Top Tips

Here is how you can make this chicken pasta bake recipe perfectly every time!

  • I tend to use a strong tasting cheese in the sauce, and a melting cheese like mozzarella on the top- but you can do what you want
  • We are a relatively low salt household, and I find with the cheese and stock this dish is fine for our palates without additional salt, but you may wish to add more seasoning for your family
  • This meal is great the following day, We often have it 2 nights in a row. So one big cooking effort on the first night, then just a reheat job on the second.
  • I tend to use a chicken or vegetable stock in this recipe

FAQs

How long do you boil pasta before baking?

To avoid stodgy pasta, use the cooking times on the pasta packet as a guide only. Boil the pasta for approximately two-thirds of the cooking time suggested on the pack, it should then be perfectly cooked after baking.

How long can you store chicken pasta bake in the fridge?

Store your chicken pasta bake for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, to tell the truth pasta bakes are actually often better on the second or third night.

Can you freeze chicken pasta bake?

Yes, cool the pasta bake completely, either place in an airtight container or wrap the baking dish in foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat to piping hot before serving.

Hidden Vegetable Recipes

If you are looking to try some hidden veggie recipes for your family, I have a section for this type of recipe on my site Hidden Vegetable Recipes  there are quite a few in this category

But some of my most popular tried and true recipes would be my ultimate hidden vegetable lasagne , spag bol (spaghetti bolognese) or my healthy macaroni cheese.

If you are looking for other family-freindly dinners these are super popular on my webiste.

Chicken pasta bake with spinach visible in a white bowl with fork.

If you made my chicken pasta bake or any other recipes on the blog please :

  • leave me a comment and a star rating below to let me know how you got on, I love hearing from you.
  •  FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK,  INSTAGRAM,  PINTEREST to see more kid-friendly food and what I’m getting up to.
A golden cheese topped pasta baked in a rectangular dish.

Chicken Pasta Bake - Family Friendly

This chicken pasta bake is family-friendly and has a healthy style with its high vegetable content of Cauliflower and Spinach
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: New Zealand
Keyword: chicken pasta bake, chicken and pasta bake, kids pasta bake, chicken pasta bake recipe
Servings: 8 Servings
Calories: 277kcal
Author: My Kids Lick The Bowl

RATE THIS RECIPE

4.45 from 475 votes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked pasta 300g
  • 300 g sliced chicken breast
  • 400 g cauliflower
  • 3 handfuls spinach
  • 30 g butter
  • 3 tablespoon flour
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¾ cup stock
  • 1 Cup grated cheese 100g + additional for the topping

Instructions

  • (Pasta) Pop on a large pot of water to boil- once boiling cook the pasta. Use the packet directions as a guide for cooking time, as the pasta will also be baked I tend to cook the pasta for approximately two-thirds of the suggested cooking time, but while this is happening you can move on to the other steps.
  • (Chicken) Heat a pan and brown your chicken
  • (Veggies) Cut the cauliflower into florets, add to a second pot, cover with water and bring to boil (leave to boil until tender)
  • (White Sauce ) Add butter to a third smaller pot, heat over a medium/low heat until melted
  • (White Sauce ) Heat your milk and stock (you don't have to, but the sauce making is much faster with warmed milk and stock)
  • (White Sauce ) Add the flour to the pot and cook off for the basis of your roux/white sauce
  • (White Sauce ) Gradually add the milk and stock to create a thick velvety sauce
  • (White Sauce )Add cheese to the white sauce and allow to melt into the sauce. Once done remove from the heat (you do not want a white sauce to boil, as it goes runny)
  • (Pasta) Remeber to check back on your pasta water and cook your pasta as per the packet instructions, once ready drain thoroughly
  • (Veggies) Remember to check on your cauliflower, once tender add 2 handfuls of spinach to the pot and let steam until wilted for a few minutes.
  • (Veggies) Drain the water from the cauliflower and spinach, blend to create a purée (I use a stick blender to do this)
  • Add the veggie purée to the cheese sauce and mix (do this in whichever is the bigger pot, ie the white sauce pot or the cauliflower pot. Be sure to taste the sauce at this stage, season with salt and pepper to your tastes.
  • Mix the sauce mixture and with the cooked pasta and browned chicken, add one more handful of spinach if desired and mix through
  • Pop the pasta mix into a baking/lasagna dish, top with grated cheese
  • Bake in an oven at 180 degrees for 30-35mins, until cheese, is melted and golden

Notes

Tips

  • To avoid stodgy pasta, use the cooking times on the pasta packet as a guide only. Boil the pasta for approximately two-thirds of the cooking time suggested on the pack, it should then be perfectly cooked after baking.
  • I tend to use a strong tasting cheese in the sauce, and a melting cheese like mozzarella on the top- but you can do what you want
  • I tend to use a chicken or vegetable stock in this recipe
  • We are a relatively low salt household, and I find with the cheese and stock this dish is fine for our palates without additional salt, but you may wish to add more seasoning for your family
  • This meal is great the following day, We often have it 2 nights in a row. So one big cooking effort on the first night, then just a reheat job on the second.

Storage

Store your chicken pasta bake for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, to tell the truth, pasta bakes are actually often better on the second or third night.
You can freeze this pasta bake. Cool the pasta bake completely, either place in an airtight container or wrap the baking dish in foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat to piping hot before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 277kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 37mg | Sodium: 592mg | Potassium: 490mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1280IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 167mg | Iron: 1mg

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