Make this cheesy chicken bacon pasta bake for a simple family dinner. Comforting, easy to prepare, and freezer-friendly, it's perfect for a weeknight meal!
This easy chicken pasta bake features crispy bacon, juicy chicken bites, al dente pasta, a rich tomato sauce, and a creamy, cheesy topping.
A simple pasta dish loaded with flavor, and easy to make, even for beginner cooks.
The beauty of a simple pasta bake (or pasta casserole) is that it's really easy to make, can be prepared ahead, and can feed a family with minimum effort.
It's also perfect for batch-cooking and hiding lots of veggies for fussy eaters.
You basically need just 5 main ingredients: pasta, chicken, bacon, cheese and tomato sauce.
Plus some aromatics and extra-virgin olive oil.
Most pasta shapes will go well with this chicken pasta dish. Fusilli, spaghetti, fusilli and of course penne are the best options.
Whenever possible, go for bronze-cut pasta made in Italy (Gragnano pasta is my favourite), which is slightly coarser than usual commercial pasta.
Its unique texture makes it the best vehicle for a great sauce. It also keeps the pasta “al dente” easier than non-bronze cut pasta.
I use chicken breast fillets, but boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into tiny chunks will work too.
You can also use leftover shredded rotisserie chicken.
I like to use smoked bacon streaky rashers and cut them into small stripes, you can also use unsmoked bacon or smoked lardons.
Fresh homemade Italian tomato sauce is my go-to option.
If you're in a hurry, you can substitute with a good-quality jar of tomato pasta sauce.
You can also use fresh mozzarella, but make sure to drain it well.
Cut the mozzarella into chunks then pat them dry with kitchen paper, so that your pasta bake doesn't end up too watery.
Parsley: Add chopped parsley for a refreshing note, fresh thyme works nicely too.
Chili: If you like a little bit of heat, you can add a generous pinch of red chili flakes.
Pancetta: substitute bacon with stir-fried pancetta or finely chopped Parma ham for a nice smoky and meaty flavour.
Pecorino: add a pinch of grated Pecorino cheese right at the end, for a nice punch of salty and peppery flavour.
Vegetables: Add spinach leaves, frozen peas, mushrooms, carrots or broccoli for an extra veggie boost.
Cheddar: substitute the shredded mozzarella with grated cheddar for extra flavour.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN PASTA BAKE
The preparation of this chicken and bacon pasta casserole is actually relatively easy.
It takes about 10 minutes of active cooking time, then you transfer the pasta in the oven and let it cook until creamy, crispy, cheesy, and delicious.
- Step 1 – Stir-fry the bacon
- Stir-fry the chopped bacon in a pan until slightly crispy.
- Step 2 – Stir-fry the chicken
- Heat a skillet with the olive oil and stir-fry the chicken chunks until evenly cooked on all sides, about 5 minutes.
- Step 3 – Cook the pasta
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of water until al dente, then drain and mix in the tomato sauce, chicken and bacon. Transfer into an oven-friendly dish or pan.
- Step 4 – Top with cheese
- Sprinkle the mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top. Bake for around 15-20 minutes, or until piping hot and the cheese on top is golden brown.
RISOTTO COOKING TIPS
- Don't wash your rice beforehand as this removes the starch, which is what helps give risotto its creamy texture.
- Do NOT use cold stock when making risotto. Cold stock will cool everything down and mess up the cooking process.
- Cook your risotto on a low, simmering heat and add the stock gradually.
- You need to babysit the pan, don’t let the rice simmer unattended.
- Check and stir often to prevent it from drying out or sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Stir your risotto every 30 seconds -1 minute, a bit of shaking is also recommended. I like to shake the pot with one hand and mix the rice with a wooden spoon in the other.
How long does it keep in the fridge?
Store your leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It should keep well for a couple of days.
Can you reheat it?
I personally prefer to reheat it in a hot oven for 4-5 minutes, rather than in the microwave, as it keeps its crunchy texture much better.
Can you freeze chicken pasta bake?
You can safely freeze it.
I love making a big batch and store into portions. Divide the pasta into individual freezer-friendly containers and store in the freezer.
Frozen pasta casseroles keep well for about 1 month (but usually disappear earlier than that).
Let the pasta thaw in the fridge overnight then reheat it in a hot oven to 150 C /300 F, for about 15 minutes.
More oven-baked pasta recipe ideas:
If you're looking for something meaty, try making a pasta bake using traditional bolognese sauce, bechamel sauce, and some mozzarella cheese.
Chicken Bacon Pasta Bake
- 400 g penne pasta
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 220 g chicken breast cut into small strips or chunks
- 150 g smoked bacon cut into small chunks
- 350 g tomato sauce or a jar of pasta sauce
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 125 g mozzarella grated
- 125 g Parmesan cheese grated
- handful fresh parsley chopped
- Heat the oven to 180°C (360°F) or 160°C (with fan option on) or gas mark 4.
- Place a large pan of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Lightly season with sea salt, then add the pasta and cook for about 7-9 minutes.
- Look at the instructions on your pasta packaging. See how long it tells you to boil the penne for, and drain the pasta 3-4 minutes before this time.
- Whilst the pasta cooks, heat a skillet to medium heat, add the olive oil and the chicken and stir-fry for about 5 minutes, until the chicken is lightly browned on all sides.
- Heat a small skillet over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until crispy, for about 4-5 minutes, then transfer on a plate covered with kitchen paper to absorb the grease in excess.
- Drain the pasta al dente, and transfer the pasta back into the pan. Add in the tomato sauce, chicken and bacon and mix all the ingredients. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
- Transfer the ingredients in a 6x8 inches baking dish or an oven-friendly pan, and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese and mozzarella all over the top.
- Bake the chicken and bacon pasta for around 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese on top is golden brown. If you want some nice crunchy brown spots, set the baking dish under the grill for 2-3 minutes extra. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.