Baked Chicken Pasta Marinara is one of the quickest, easiest, and delicious dinners to whip up on a busy evening. These days I am all about trying to simplify my life, and that includes simplifying my food as well.
Baked Pasta Chicken Marinara
This pasta dish is very easy to make and comes together in less than 60 minutes. I don’t know about you guys, but the last thing I want to do when I come home from work is fumbling around in the kitchen for hours trying to put together a meal. This baked chicken pasta recipe makes it easy for you to have a delicious dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time. Not to mention, this dish makes lots of leftovers. So, you will have meals to eat all week long. This is precisely the reason why I like making large batches of food at the beginning of the week (or larger meals in general), because I simply cannot be bothered to cook when I’m amidst the hustle & bustle of the work week.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had some brutally cold and snow days in Calgary. I’ve been craving warm, cozy, hearty and of course CHEESY meals this month. This baked chicken pasta casserole certainly ticks all the boxes for me. I had some leftover penne pasta from a couple of days ago that needed to be put to use. Instead of cooking a traditional pasta dish, I opted for baked pasta instead. It’s always nice to experiment with tried & true dishes (like pasta) in the kitchen by trying to transform them into something different. It’s important to keep things interesting, especially if you have kids. I can definitely relate to getting bored easily by the same old meals.
Vegetarian & Vegan Substitutions
This recipe can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the chicken. To make it vegan, you could remove the chicken and the cheese and use nutritional yeast, vegan cheese, and beans instead. I think this would be really delicious with some cannellini beans and also more veggies. I used whatever vegetables I had on hand to put this together. You can simply add whatever you want to make the dish your own!
For a gluten-free option, you could definitely swap out the penne noodles for brown rice noodles or even chickpea pasta instead. If you end up using chickpea pasta, you may want to cook the pasta for less time since it is easy to overcook chickpea pasta. These would be great options though and would provide a little extra protein.
Another thing that I think would make this baked chicken pasta marinara even better is to infuse the marinara sauce with the parmesan cheese. This would make the sauce a lot more creamy in texture. I think the next time I make this dish, I will definitely add the cheese to the sauce first. Nonetheless, this pasta is still super yummy with all the gooey, melted, bubbly cheese on top!
Sun Dried tomatoes would also be AMAZING in this. Sun Dried tomatoes would just add another lovely layer of flavour to this baked chicken pasta recipe. I am such a huge sundried tomato lover. I have another pasta bake recipe on the blog for a Chorizo Sundried Tomato & Olive Pasta Bake. It’s one of my favourite pasta bakes as well. It’s great if you are looking for something a little meatier because it has the chorizo sausage in it.
I used Newmans Marinara sauce for this recipe. Feel free to make your own tomato sauce. Homemade is always best! However, sometimes we are in a pinch and can’t make our own. I quite like the Newmans Marinara for a basic marinara sauce. If you are interesting in making your own marinara sauce, definitely check out my friend Leanne’s recipe over at Crumb Top Baking. She has lots of amazing recipes on her site as well!
Winter Food Cravings
I don’t actually eat a lot of pasta. I go through phases of eating it and then not eating it at all. In the winter months (and especially if you live in a colder climate), I think we are naturally more prone to eating comfort foods, like pasta. We are in hibernation mode and our bodies are craving heartier and richer foods. I don’t find myself eating much pasta during the spring and summer months, that’s for sure. This baked pasta chicken casserole is the perfect way to satisfy that craving and to help feed your family all week long!
If you are interesting in more quick & easy dinner ideas, definitely have a look at my recipe page here. I have LOTS of different dinner/salad/soup options to satisfy even the most picky of eaters in the family. In addition to hearty recipes, there’s many healthy recipes I share on the blog too. I am a big proponent of embracing balance when it comes to food. It’s important to give yourself the best of both worlds. Don’t deprive yourself! After all, we are only here for a short time. Enjoy the food that you eat!
More Dinner Ideas
Baked Pasta Chicken Marinara with Mushrooms & Leeks
- 1 package penne pasta
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 jar marinara sauce
- 2-4 chicken breasts, cubed
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 leek, chopped
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced lengthwise
- 3 tbsp parsley, chopped
- 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 ball mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- Start by bringing a medium saucepan filled with water & salt to a boil. Add in the package of penne pasta and boil until al dente.
Preparing the Pasta
- When pasta is done, drain and rinse. Set aside and work on the sauce mixture.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a medium-large size casserole dish.
- In a medium skillet on medium-high heat, add in 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Once heated, add in the cubed chicken. Season with salt & pepper. Sautee for 5-8. (We don’t want to fully cook the chicken here since we will be baking it in the oven. It’s OK if the chicken is a little undercooked at this stage). Remove chicken from skillet & set aside.
- Add more oil to the skillet and add in the garlic cloves. Once hot, add the leeks & mushrooms. Season with salt & pepper. Sautee for 5 minutes or so until the vegetables start to slightly brown. Turn the heat down to low-medium.
- At this point, add the chicken back into the skillet and pour into the marinara sauce. Add in the oregano & chili flakes. Stir to combine the sauce with all other ingredients. Remove from heat.
- Layer the bottom of the casserole dish with the penne pasta and then pour the sauce mixture over top. Stir to combine.
- Add the parmesan and mozzarella on top. Bake in 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. For the last 5 minutes of cooking, turn the broiler on to brown the cheese!
- Remove from oven and serve with parsley on top.