Ok, so this is neither particularly low-cal or low-fat, but it is VERY delicious.Â Also, this was one of those â€œhappy accidentâ€ cooking experiments that worked out for the very best.Â One evening, late in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle of grocery shopping, I found myself with a limited set of components for a meal.Â I had some pasta, a can of enchilada sauce, some salsa, some cheeses, and some frozen chicken breasts.Â This is what you get when you mix those things together and bake them for 30 minutes at 375â€¦
1 Box (12.5 â€“ 16 oz.) Penne Rigate pasta.Â Rotini and ziti would also work very well, elbow macaroni and farfalle (bowtie) noodles would not.
1 10 oz. Can Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce â€“ Mild (if you like it hot, go with spicy, but be warned I have no idea myself how this would turn out).
2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
~2 C finely grated Monterey Jack Cheese (i.e. a mound about the size of a softball).
1/2 C Pace Picante Salsa â€“ Mild (again, as spicy as you like it, I just havenâ€™t tried it myself).
~1 Cup finely grated Cheddar Cheese
~1 TBSP of taco seasoning?Â Not sure on the amount here, enough to season two chicken breasts.
Preheat oven to 375.
Grease a 9×13 baking dish.
Grate your cheese.Â Trust me, use the fine grating even though it takes three times as long.Â This casserole is dependent on a good, even mixture of flavors and the large grate cheese just doesnâ€™t mix as well and cooks in clumps.Â NOT what you want.
Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the box of pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, season the chicken breasts with the taco seasoning and then grill them on your Foreman grill.Â You do have a Foreman Grill right?Â Everyone needs a Foreman Grill.Â EVERYONE.
Now, as the universe works this way, your noodles and your chicken will end up finishing at exactly the same time, screwing up your carefully orchestrated plans for simultaneous prep steps.Â Yank the chicken off the grill and onto a cutting board and let them rest for a couple of minutes while you drain the noodles and then return them to the pot.
Dump the entire can of enchilada sauce into the pot with the drained noodles, mixing thoroughly.
Slice the chicken breasts into strips about one inch thick.Â Then, take a fork and shred the chicken.Â Personally, I just smash the fork into the chicken and use the knife to constantly push the shredded chicken off the tines, but do whatever makes you happy.Â Dump the shredded chicken into the pot (I do this one strip at a time, making room for the next one on the cutting board) and when all the chicken is in the pot, stir it all together with the noodles and the sauce.Â Go for good, even coverage of sauce.
Now, mix in the Monterey Jack cheese.Â Try to do this without large clumps of just cheese or chicken building up.Â This is easier to say than do.Â Be warned, over-stirring will be your enemy.
Now dump the whole mixture into the baking dish.
Put the salsa on the top of the mixture, using a fork to spread it across the surface of the casserole, and then cover the whole thing with the cheddar cheese.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cheddar starts to brown on the edges and the casserole has cooked all the way through.Â Youâ€™ll know when you hear the oils from the monterey jack simmering.Â It will sound like the casserole is whispering.Â Donâ€™t take it personal, casseroles are just like that; alwaysÂ talking about youÂ behind closed doors.
Remove the dish from the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
Personally, I like it with a dollop of sour cream on top and a couple of dashes of tapatio, but thatâ€™s just me.