Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chicken Tortellini Casserole

I came up with this casserole yesterday afternoon to use up some ingredients in my fridge and pantry. I was SO pleased with the result. It came together quickly, it's easily a 30 minute dinner, and it was delicious. A great way to use up leftover chicken and get your family to eat spinach!

Last week, I decided to make fried chicken from scratch for the first time ever! I brined the chicken overnight, marinated it in buttermilk and hot sauce all afternoon, played with the seasonings until I got them just right, and then fried it up in hot, splattering oil until it was crispy and golden brown. Truth be told, the perfect fried chicken offers quite a challenge to even the most experienced home cook. There are lots of steps, it's time consuming, difficult to get the heat of the oil just right so that the chicken doesn't get too brown yet done on the inside, and it makes a terrible mess in your kitchen. No wonder I've hit the KFC drive-thru when my craving for fried chicken takes over.

As it turns out, on the evening that I'd set aside for preparing fried chicken, my husband called to say that he wouldn't be home for dinner and our oldest daughter was eating dinner away too. After I pulled that crispy chicken from my cast iron skillet, I sat down to dinner with just our toddler. We thoroughly enjoyed the fried chicken together. Someday I'll devote a whole post to fried chicken, but today, I want to talk about what I did with all of those leftovers.

The best way to eat fried chicken is fresh. I think that we can all agree that even the best fried chicken is a bit lackluster when re-heated. Which is why no one in my family wanted to touch these leftovers. I did make myself a lovely panini from some of the chicken breast for lunch the next day, but otherwise all of that hard work was just sitting in my fridge un-eaten. So I decided to shred it and make a casserole.

While I was shredding the chicken, I started a pot of water boiling for the tortellini and heated a couple of tablespoons of butter in a skillet to which I added a small sliced onion.

Once the onion is tender, add in the shredded chicken and season. Here I used a Sicilian Blend and a Parmesan Blend that I had in the pantry. Some Italian seasoning, garlic, sea salt and freshly ground pepper would work well too. Cook and stir until the chicken is heated through.

Then I chopped up some sun-dried tomatoes (dry pack, not the kind in oil) and added those to mix.

Stir in some fresh, chopped baby spinach. I used two cups this time. I think that the next time, I could sneak in another cup or even two and my family would still love this. That's the thing about spinach, it's such an un-offensive vegetable. I've found tons of applications to add this leafy green vegetable, packed with antioxidants, vitamin A, calcium, and iron, into my cooking. Cook and stir the spinach in the skillet until wilted.

You could easily pour heavy whipping cream over this for a fresh sauce. I went a different route. I got this pre-made low fat Alfredo sauce from the grocery for a steal, so in the interest of a lower fat option, I poured it on.

Then add the cooked tortellini and toss to coat.

Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and sprinkle generously with grated Parmesan. Then pop it into the oven until bubbly and...

golden brown.

This was SO good...and not too bad for you either. By using white breast meat, low fat Alfredo sauce, reduced fat cheese tortellini, and topping the casserole with flavor-packed Parmesan (rather than buttered bread crumbs) I was able to cut down the fat in this dish a bit. Plus, there's spinach in there! Serve it with a simple salad of baby spinach and fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and feel good about this dinner!

Krista's Chicken Tortellini Casserole

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
Italian or Sicilian Blend seasoning
garlic salt, to taste
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, also to taste
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (I used dry pack, not in oil)
2-4 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 jar light Alfredo sauce
9-10 oz. low fat cheese tortellini (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Boil water and cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, heat butter in a skillet. Add the sliced onion and saute until tender. Add the chicken and spices and cook until heated through. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes. Add the spinach and cook and stir over low heat until wilted. Stir in the Alfredo sauce. Add the tortellini and toss until coated with the sauce. Transfer to a casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake at 400 degrees until bubbly and golden brown, 10-15 minutes. If needed turn on the broiler for a couple of minutes at the end to brown the top.

For a printable copy of this recipe, please click here.


theUngourmet said...

This looks like a fun and tasty casserole. I've never made authentic fried chicken, it does sound like a challenge. My son told me the other day that he just had to have a fried chicken leg for lunch so we hopped over to KFC. He took two bites of his chicken leg and was done with it. He liked it but I think he liked the biscuit even more. ;D

Mary | Deep South Dish said...

Wow, that looks delicious Krista! Great job!! You're always so creative. I've got the fried chicken thing down pretty good, but the mess is such a hassle. It's not cheap, but let me tell you Popeye's Fried Chicken is the BEST around these parts!!

Ty'sMommy said...

What a great way to use up those leftovers!!! Fried chicken leftovers always seem to sit ignored in my fridge, too. What a shame to put all that work into your first fried chicken and have no one to share it with though!

Desi said...

So creative! I'm adding this to my list of recipes to try. Thanks for sharing :)

Reeni said...

What a hearty and super delicious casserole Krista! Making fried chicken is messy but so yummy...This is a great way to use the leftovers.

Lindsey said...

I'll be trying this as well as the peanut butter cookies! Sounds great!

Kim said...

Boy oh boy do I agree with you about fried chicken. It is a rather messy job, but one that I really want to be able to get right.

That casserole looks like the stuff that dreams are made of:) A little bit of all my favorite things, all rolled into one. I could really devour some of that!!

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