Have you watched Ugly Delicious?
This is kind of that. It’s the food we’re supposed to turn our noses up at, food of a different era, the dirty little secret of food. It’s a casserole with cream of mushroom AND cream of chicken soup, it’s not particularly attractive, and it’s utterly delicious.
I actually made this cheesy baked chicken noodle casserole years ago based on The Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I’ve made it off and on for the last ten or so years, usually pulling it out for family vacations or special events that call for easy comfort food. Specifically, I froze a batch of this when I was pregnant with both of my kids, and we had it on our first night home (the day they both were born) with each of them. So, to say that this casserole holds some meaning to me is an understatement.
The main meaning of this casserole is SALT AND CHEESE, but I’ve added lots of extra veggies in this version. We cook the noodles about halfway and then keep the veggies raw so that they don’t get too mushy when we bake the casserole. This does yield a little bit of a soupy casserole, but I find that to be delicious, and the casserole sets up once it sits a bit after baking.
Ugly or not, you absolutely want to eat noodles baked with chicken, cheese, vegetables, and a creamy gravy. Right? Right.
(I had another picture of the ingredients, but this one with Beck’s stealing hand is just so cute I decided to use it because it’s my blog and no one pays me to write it and I do what I want.)
So we need! Any kind of cooked shredded chicken you like. Leftovers, rotisserie, whatever. Then tons of chopped veggies! This takes a little bit of time but watch TV while you do it and drink wine. Bell pepper, zucchini, carrot, celery, and onion are all here. Then we have noodles, broken in half, half and half, chicken stock, seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, and grated sharp cheddar. Basically all good things.
Start by boiling the spaghetti to about four minutes less than indicated on the box. We want REALLY al dente noodles, not cooked enough to eat at all. When the noodles are done, throw everything into a massive bowl with all but a handful of the cheese. That’s it!
Stir the ingredients together and taste: the veggies are raw, but the mixture should be nice and flavorful, so add lots of salt and pepper until it gets there. Since things are undercooked, it should be….good without actually being good, get it? Good.
Spread the food into a casserole dish and top it with the rest of the cheese. At this point you can freeze it, stick it in the fridge, or bake it. I’ve frozen it from this state and it bakes beautifully from frozen – my tip is to stick it in a cold oven frozen, then turn the heat on, so the casserole warms gradually slash doesn’t break the dish (obviously use an ovenproof dish).
Alternatively, you can let this thaw overnight in the fridge and let it bake from there. Bake time depends on your oven and how cold the casserole is, but vaguely 375F until the entire dish is hot and bubbly. You’ll know when it’s done!
Feel free to broil the top for extra cheese crisping action.
I know it’s not particularly glamorous. I know it doesn’t tick any nutrition boxes you might be working through in January. I do know, though, that this combo of cheese + pasta + veggies is absolutely delicious and will carry you through the winter if you don’t think too hard about cream of mushroom AND chicken soup in one dish.
Keep it in your arsenal, make it for friends who have family in the hospital or just had a baby. Keep one in the fridge for kid sleepovers. Eat half of it yourself. You get it. Enjoy!