The brilliant cook who created the first chicken spaghetti casserole must have been a genius indeed. After all, everyone loves a good chicken dinner, and spaghetti is a favorite among children and adults alike. Casseroles get a culinary thumbs-up for being delicious, one-dish meals that offer easy ways to transform tired leftovers into a whole new entrée. A chicken spaghetti casserole combines the best of all three meals.
As with all types of casseroles, there are a range of recipes for chicken spaghetti casseroles. Some call for white meat that has been shredded or cubed, while others want bone-in breasts with the skin still on. There are chicken spaghetti casseroles based upon thigh or other dark meat as well.
Other variations include the types of pasta. Strictly speaking, a chicken spaghetti casserole should be prepared using only spaghetti, but few cooks base their ingredients list on semantics alone. Rotini, fettuccini, or corkscrew pasta can be substituted to give the casserole a different style. Some cooks like to experiment with whole-grain pastas, rice pasta, or Asian noodles to really change it up.
As with most casseroles, chicken spaghetti casseroles typically contain veggies as well as meat, pasta, and sauce. Onions, celery, and mushrooms are common bedfellows. Other tasty and colorful additions can include fire-roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, green peas, or any other veggie that is seasonal and appeals to the cook’s sensibility.
Spaghetti conjures thoughts of a red tomato sauce, and many recipes for chicken pasta casseroles do, indeed, include a jarred or homemade tomato sauce. These versions often include cheese of some sort, either sprinkled over the top of the casserole to brown and add a nice crust or tucked within the casserole together with the other ingredients. Mozzarella is a common choice, but ricotta, dry or wet cottage cheese, or even goat cheese also make the grade.
Cooks in a hurry reach for canned soup as an alternative to red sauce. A creamy version of chicken spaghetti casserole can be created in just a few minutes with cooked and cubed chicken, a package of shredded cheese, and a can of condensed cream soup such as mushroom or chicken. Sautéed onion, garlic, and celery add flavor, and fungus fans like some nicely browned, sliced, wild or domestic mushrooms as well.
Other ways to modify chicken spaghetti casseroles abound. Adding a can of sliced water chestnuts adds crunch, while a handful of crushed butter crackers that have been lightly browned over the top adds a wonderful finish. Alternatively, a can of onion rings is another good choice.