Last week, I overheard a stranger complaining to another stranger about how no one cooks anymore and how they are sick and tired of seeing chicken spaghetti at potlucks. “Does anyone ever just fry a chicken anymore?!” she asked. That got me thinking about how much I love chicken spaghetti. It is one of my favorite meals at potlucks and after I have a baby, however, I refuse to make it myself. I cannot bring myself to buy cream of whatever soups anymore or Velveeta, no matter how nicely it melts (but yes, I will eat it if someone else makes it, I’m not so discriminating.) Anyway, I have been dreaming about chicken spaghetti for days, so I decided to look up some recipes and ended up making my own version. I thank the Pioneer Woman for her many suggestions, but I did not follow her cream of ___ soup trail.
And, just to preface this, I’m not saying that because it is from scratch it is healthy. There’s a lot of cheese in this, but it is an improvement from the alternative if you can’t stop craving chicken spaghetti. And no, I’m not following a paleo diet these days, in case you couldn’t tell. (And while I am offering confessions, this is not my picture, I just found it online.)
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2.5-3 cups dry spaghetti (whole wheat works just fine, I used capellini), broken into 2 inch pieces
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1/3 cup flour
1.5 cups chicken stock
1.5 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon season salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
8 oz. petite diced tomatoes
~3 cups cheddar, grated
Now, this is where I got ideas from the Pioneer Woman. I boiled a whole chicken (on sale at HEB for 77 cents/pound) for an hour, pulled it out of the water/stock, and saved 1.5 cups of stock for the sauce. Then, I boiled the noodles in all the stock left in the dirty pot. That was a nice way to minimize dishes. While the chicken was cooling and in between noodle cooking (follow the instructions for al dente on your package), I melted the butter in a large skillet. Then, cook the bell pepper and onions until soft, a few minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes. I also added the spices at this time. Slowly add the milk and reserved stock, whisking to make a smooth sauce, stirring over medium heat until thick. It takes several minutes. When it is thick, remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of your cheese. You can de-bone your chicken now and put 2-3 cups in the sauce. Cook the noodles in the chicken pot and then drain. Add cooked noodles to your sauce along with your tomatoes.
Dump everything in a casserole dish (I think a 9×13 or something of similar capacity should suffice) and top with some more cheddar. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 until hot and bubbly.
Here’s a tip: I doubled this recipe and used a 4-pound chicken for all the meat. I divided the casserole among three, smaller casserole dishes (9×9 inches) and froze two for later. I love having fall-back meals in the freezer to bless others, take to potlucks, or if I’m just too tired to cook, and I would be hating chicken spaghetti two days from now if I made a whole 9×13 for our family.