Pasta doesn’t make you fat. How much pasta you eat makes you fat.
– Giada De Laurentiis
Years ago, I was visiting my sister who lived in Galway at the time. From my memory it was either late Autumn or early Winter. We had gone out the night before and had spent our day recovering by watching TV, chatting, and I believe she introduced me to the magic that was “G’s to Gents”. When we finally decided to eat she introduced me to what has become one of my favourite meals to make when I’m having friends over.
All the vegetables and chicken smelled divine by themselves but adding the Dolmio® Creamy Tomato Sauce gave it that extra edge. My sister is one of those people who always ups her game when it comes to cooking and this recipe had already been given to her by another friend in it’s basic form of the Dolmio jar, chicken and pasta. My sister not only added vegetables, but she also stirred in single cream and added hunks of cheese to the pasta and topped it with even more cheese. It was so sinfully good. Every bite was heaven, and you knew that while theoretically it was chocked full of veggie goodness, in reality it was really brimming over with cholesterol-ridden deliciousness which you just didn’t care about. I was hooked.
Over the years, my sister has made this for me plenty of times, and I’ve made it fairly frequently myself. Eventually, my sister created her own creamy tomato sauce from scratch for this recipe, and it is just as good as the Dolmio version. When I moved to Korea, my cousin had come to visit me for a week my first year. I wanted to make something special to thank her for her visit and also to celebrate another friend’s birthday. This was the recipe I chose to make, and it was a huge hit. Finding Dolmio, however, was impossible so I ended up making my own sauce. Over the last 2.5 years I have made this recipe fairly frequently, and I find it is quite adaptable for different versions of this pasta bake( although using chicken is still my favourite version). To me this, along with Shepherd’s Pie (coming soon, I promise!), are my ultimate comfort foods. It might take a bit of time to put together, but its heartiness more than makes up for that!
Creamy Tomato Chicken Pasta Bake
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ¼ tsp dried parsley
- ½ tsp chili flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bitesize pieces.
- 1 onion, diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bell pepper (any colour, but I prefer red or orange), chopped
- 1 cup courgette/zucchini, diced
- 1 cup aubergine/eggplant, diced
- 1 cup broccoli, chopped into small florets
- 1 cup asparagus, chopped diagonally
- 2-3 mushrooms, sliced (optional)
- 1 cup spinach (optional)
- 411g tin/14.5oz tin diced tomatoes
- 411g tin/14.5oz tin tomato sauce/passata /crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 500g/17.5oz conchiglie pasta
- double cream/whipping cream
- 1.5 – 2 cups/150g – 200g mozzarella or cheddar, grated
- 1 package buffalo mozzarella, sliced or thin slices of cheddar cheese
- Preheat your oven to 200°C.
- Heat a large wok with the oil over medium-high heat.
- Once hot, add the herbs, chili flakes and seasoning. Cook for 15-20 seconds.
- Add the chicken and coat with the oil. Cook for around 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add onion and garlic.
- Increase heat to high and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the pepper, aubergine and courgette and stir fry until the chicken is white throughout and any liquid from the vegetables has reduced.
- Add the broccoli, asparagus, spinach and mushrooms, if using.
- Stir-fry for around 5 minutes until the asparagus is tender. If you have time, you can also cook until the chicken is very lightly browned.
- Add the diced tomato, tomato sauce, tomato paste and season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Turn off theburner but leave the wok where it is. Add in the cream, and, once thoroughly mixed, mix in the shredded cheese.
- Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water.
- Add a pinch of salt, a little oil, and the pasta. Cook until al dente.
- Drain and add to the tomato sauce after the cream and cheese have been stirred in. Make sure all the pasta is completely coated with the sauce.
- Transfer the pasta to an oven-proof dish. Top the pasta with slices of buffalo mozzarella.
- Place in the oven for around 30 minutes until the cheese melts.
- Serve with fried aubergine, green beans and/or a salad. You could also serve with these stuffed mushrooms.
Make it your own: Substitute a large tin of tuna for the chicken or leave out the meat entirely. Add or remove the vegetables you don’t like. Green beans and corn work quite well as substitutes, as do carrots and celery. If you want to make it more sauce-y, reduce the amount of pasta that you cook and add to the sauce.
Make a lighter version: Substitute single cream for double cream. I can only find double cream here so that’s why I use it. You could also add coconut cream if you prefer. You could also add cheese only to the top of the bake and not to the mix.
One-ringing cooking: Follow steps 1 – 12, remove the sauce from the stove and set aside. Boil water, cook your pasta and then reheat the sauce. Once hot again, add cream and cheese and follow steps 16-19.