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Italian-style baked chicken pasta — “pasta al forno”— is a creamy combo of chicken and pasta baked with spinach and gooey melted cheese. This recipe is the perfect one-dish dinner for a cozy night in.
You have choices when it comes to repurposing leftovers into pasta dinners: this chicken pasta bake makes a rich and satisfying one-dish meal. Short pasta is combined with chopped spinach, creamy, cheeses, and pre-cooked chicken in a baking dish.
You gotta love that something wonderful happens when dinner comes out of the oven, especially when it’s an all-in-one meal.
Not only do you smell a delicious aroma wafting around the kitchen. But once you lift the baking dish out of the oven you’re rewarded with the sight and sound of hot, bubbling cream and melting cheese. It’s hard not to love that.
Ingredients for chicken pasta bake
- Fresh spinach or other leafy greens
- Cooked chicken: You’ll need about a cup of cooked chicken. Rotisserie or leftover roasted chicken is perfect.
- Dried pasta: Short tubular pasta shapes such as shells, ziti, penne or rigatoni are great for catching all the sauce in the nooks and crannies. See How to Cook Pasta to learn the steps to perfect al dente pasta.
- Cheese: Use a mixture of grated Parmesan and a cheese that melts well, such as Fontina, Monterey Jack or Havarti.
- Heavy cream
- Use shredded leftover roast chicken or you can make the process even easier with shredded store-bought rotisserie chicken.
- Once you combine your par-boiled pasta, chicken mixture and sauce ingredients in a large mixing bowl, pop the buttered dish into the oven (or rub with olive oil).
- Bake 12-15 minutes at 475 degrees.
- Sprinkle with additional cheese before serving, if you like.
This deliciously satisfying dish is great for either a hungry couple or four people, with a salad on the side.
Double up the recipe for a larger crowd, using one pound of pasta and two shallow baking dishes or one 2-quart oval baking dish. For a vegetarian meal, omit the chicken.
Spinach Chicken Pasta Bake
- 1 pound (450 g) spinach or other leafy greens
- ½ pound (225 g) dried short pasta, such as mezze rigatoni or penne
- 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) chopped garlic
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup (140 g) cooked chicken, in bite-sized pieces
- ⅓ cup (55 g) grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup (44 g) shredded Fontina, Monterey Jack or Havarti cheese
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) butter
- Heat oven to 475 (245 C) degrees.
- Bring a large pot of water (5 or 6 quarts) to a boil with 1 tablespoon 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 in the boiling water 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 2-quart gratin or baking dish. Transfer pasta mixture to the gratin dish.
- Bake 12 minutes or so, until the cream is bubbling and edges of the pasta begin to brown. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- 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.
- Leftover roast chicken is ideal for this cheesy baked pasta recipe, or omit the chicken for a vegetarian main dish.
- Alternatively, you can roast a large bone-in, skin-on chicken breast half for 25 minutes at 425 degrees. Cool and shred the meat.