Cheesy Salsa Chicken Pasta Bake

Lately I have been making one of the two versions of this A LOT.  Why?  Well, it's stupidly easy and you don't have to remember to thaw your chicken!  Thawing is one of my biggest obstacles in the kitchen.  Isn't that sad?  I don't remember where I first heard this method, but it has been amazing.  Easy, delicious, right up my alley.

First I took a couple packages of frozen (yes, frozen!) chicken breasts and put them in the crock pot with a jar of salsa.  In our house we have several people that don't like "chunks" so I usually run my salsa through a blender first.  :)  I cooked them for 4 hours, shredded the chicken, and put it back in for 30 minutes to absorb all the juice.  We ate a little over half that night as chicken tacos and I froze the rest, so the casserole uses the portion that I froze.
You can also do the same thing with a bottle of BBQ sauce.  It makes fantastic BBQ chicken sandwiches and pizza.

Now for the new casserole recipe!

Doesn't it look like melty cheesy goodness?

Cheesy Salsa Chicken Pasta Bake

2 cups (you can use more or less, just whatever, it's a good way to stretch leftover chicken) of shredded salsa chicken
Tablespoon of cumin (we LOVE cumin at our house)
Couple teaspoons of chili powder
Couple teaspoons of garlic salt (I was out of real garlic so I just used garlic salt.  If you use real garlic don't forget to salt your mixture!)
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
2 cups shredded cheddar, divided
1 to 1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 cup of salsa
Box of penne (but any smaller pasta would work) cooked just shy of al dente

Mix chicken, cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, 1 cup-ish of mozzarella, 1 cup-ish of cheddar, and the sour cream until well combined.  Then mix in the cooked pasta.  If the mixture looks a little dry just add some milk or some more salsa.  Top with the rest of the cheese.

Bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees until the cheese is melty and bubbly and delicious! 
I warmed up my chicken before mixing it with everything but if you don't you will want to bake it a little longer.  This could easily be made gluten free by subbing GF pasta.

To make ahead of time (like the morning of or the night before):
Only cook the noodles until they are halfway done.  You will need to add a bit more salsa and sour cream (because the pasta will absorb liquid as sits and as it bakes and you don't want your casserole to get too dry) and I usually add an extra 1/2 cup of sour cream and maybe a cup of salsa.  Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.  I like to start my casserole in a cold oven because I'm always scared of thermal shock exploding my pyrex in the oven.  :)

***UPDATE:  I've started adding cumin, chili powder, salt, and fresh garlic to my salsa when I run it through my blender before adding it to the chicken in the crock pot.  It has made my tacos even better and now I can skip the seasoning step when I make the casserole!***

***2nd UPDATE:  I subbed 3/4 cup cream cheese for half of the sour cream and it was delicious!  It just goes to show that using what you've got on hand can make for the best casseroles ever!***


Anonymous said…
I'm actually making this right now as I have everything on hand and needed to use up the chicken, but I have a question. What is the oven temp? I am going with 350 degrees? Probably not a big deal, since it's just being warmed together I assume? Thanks.
Emily said…
Oh, yes. 350. I should go and add that in there. :)
Anonymous said…
Well at this point it might not make it to the oven. I am sitting here licking the spoon. This is delicious! Thank you for posting this. You saved my dinner tonight and it is wonderful!

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