Is it just me or is the hour leading up to dinner the most insane part of the day? This is how it looks at my house:
I paw frantically through the cupboards while I wait for a genius meal idea to dawn on me. So far, the front runners are Eggos, Lucky Charms, and ice cream. I'm leaning toward ice cream. Danny decides that although he is 2 years old, he needs to be held while I make dinner. Either I acquiesce and cook (pull out cereal bowls) one-handed or drag him around the kitchen while he hangs on my leg and howls. I pray fervently that the husband will be home early from work. (He won't be.)
Danny is tired, hungry, and cranky. The husband is tired, hungry, and cranky. I am very tired, very hungry, and very cranky.
This is not the time to slay dragons. This is the time to pull a casserole out of the fridge and pop it in the oven. Then you can snuggle with your kid while he watches Thomas the Train. Or read In Touch Weekly. Or have a glass of wine. Or all of the above.
That's why we're making Creamy Baked Pasta with Chicken. Sure it's delicious and cheesy and even healthy, but my favorite part? You can make it ahead of time.
Now about that glass of wine...
Cheesy Baked Pasta with Chicken
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven and this Bacon Mac & Cheese
8 ounces whole wheat penne (or your favorite short pasta)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup milk
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Big pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" square baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute to get rid of the raw taste. Very slowly whisk in broth and milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce thickens a bit, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in mozzarella and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Stir cooked pasta and chicken into sauce. Pour into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until pasta and cheese are golden.