Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Spaghetti

I’ve always thought of myself as above chicken spaghetti, because I associate it with canned chicken, mushy peppers, cream of mushroom soup, and crappy cheese. Chicken spaghetti is the equivalent of chick lit, a guilty pleasure. Surely my tastes are more refined than that! But I’ll admit: it’s pretty tasty, especially when you use fresh, high-quality ingredients, but it’s tasty even when you don’t. And I will fully admit to having lots of biases shaped by my being spoiled to really good food and also having grown up on a wide variety of “lowbrow” (read: cheap) food and not really wanting to relive that for myself or subject my children to it.

Last Monday night, we had a rotisserie chicken from Costco for dinner. Because those things are huge, we always have a lot of meat left over. I often the leftover meat for tacos or enchiladas, but this time I wanted to go a little more comforting. I was thinking a chicken and tortellini soup, but I was idly perusing my Pioneer Woman cookbook and came across her recipe for chicken spaghetti. I offered Matt a choice between the soup and the spaghetti and he chose the latter.

Chicken Spaghetti, adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks:

2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 pound fusilli
4 oz. pimientos, drained
1 small onion, diced
1 finely diced green bell pepper
2 cans cream of mushroom soup (I used Campbell’s Healthy Selections: MISTAKE)
8 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp. seasoned salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
2 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350. Cook the pasta. Drain it, then throw it in a big bowl or pot with the cream of mushroom soup and 2 cups of the shredded cheddar. Toss in the onion, green pepper, and pimiento. Add the seasoned salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Toss in the chicken and the broth. Stir it all together and, if you can bear to taste raw casserole, check that the seasonings suit your taste. Pour the mixture into a large baking pan (I used a glass casserole dish sprayed with Pam) and top with the remaining cheddar cheese. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until bubbly.

I thought it was pretty tasty, but next time I will use spaghetti and full-fat cream of mushroom. This was lacking in creaminess and the heft of well-executed comfort food, and I blame the Healthy Selections soup. And I think the fusilli prevented the satisfying casserole-glop that spaghetti would have provided.

Damn, now I’m hungry and the leftovers are in the freezer. Time to go for a walk.

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