From the oven, Italian-style “al forno” creamy chicken pasta with spinach and melty fontina cheese.
This baked pasta makes a rich and satisfying one-dish dinner, with all sorts of creamy, cheesy, chickeny things going on. Oh, and there’s some dark, leafy spinach in there to round it out.
Something wonderful happens when dinner comes out of the oven, especially when it’s an all-in-one kind of deal.
You not only get clued-in that something delicious is going on from the aromas wafting around the kitchen, but once you lift the baking dish off the rack you’re rewarded with the sight and sound of hot, bubbling cream and melting cheese. It’s hard not to love that, right?
Short pasta shapes are best for this dish — anything like shells, penne, farfalle or rigatoni would be great for catching all the sauce in the nooks and crannies.
You’ll need about a cup of cooked chicken — Use shredded leftover roast chicken (here’s one of my go-to recipes) or you can make the process even easier and use shredded store-bought rotisserie chicken.
This dish is great for either a hungry couple or 4 people, with a salad on the side. Double up the recipe for a larger crowd, using one pound of pasta and 2 shallow baking dishes or one 2-quart baking dish.
spinach, chicken and pasta al forno
Yield 4 servings
Leftover roast chicken is ideal for this recipe. Alternatively, roast a large bone-in, skin-on chicken breast half, seasoned with salt for 25 minutes at 425 degrees.
- 1 pound spinach
- 1/2 pound dried short pasta, such as mezze rigatoni or penne
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup cooked chicken in bite-sized pieces
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup shredded Fontina cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Heat oven to 475 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of water (5 or 6 quarts) to a boil with 2 teaspoons salt.
- Drop spinach into the water and cook 1 minute; remove with a slotted spoon to a colander and drain. Put the spinach in a clean kitchen towel (careful, it's hot), roll it up and squeeze over the sink to remove as much water as you can. Chop the spinach.
- Parboil the pasta until halfway cooked, 7 - 10 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the pasta. Drain.
- Stir together cream, garlic, salt, pepper, chicken, spinach and the cheeses in a large bowl; add drained pasta and mix together.
- Smear the butter over a 1-quart gratin or baking dish. Transfer pasta mixture to the gratin dish. Bake 12 minutes or so, until the the cream is bubbling and edges of the pasta begin to brown. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
This is a perfect dinner for either a hungry couple or 4 people with a salad on the side. Double up the recipe for a larger crowd, using 2 gratins or one 2-quart baking dish.