Bacon, chicken and cheese make this easy macaroni pasta bake a popular dinner recipe. This recipe is very quick and delicious and the best part is that you can make the entire recipe ahead. If you are looking for a meatless pasta bake, try this Tuna and Spinach Pasta Bake Recipe or perhaps something more Mediterranean, you can try this Mediterranean Chicken Pasta Bake.
Pasta bakes make some of the best comfort food dishes and are brilliant for serving as casseroles at family functions or any gathering. This macaroni pasta bake to me says home, what does it mean for you? If you are looking for a recipe that will be really delicious and easily customizable without taking hours to make, then you are in the right place. It's a feel good type of recipe that families love.
Believe it or not, pasta bakes are not as Italian as they are either South African, British or American. To do this very day, my husband still frowns when he sees pasta bake for dinner. Italians cannot fathom why pasta needs to be baked with other foods!? For Italians, pasta is fresh and served immediately not baked as comfort food. Suffice it to say, he nevertheless is committed to a second helping of pasta bake whenever we have it for dinner! It has to be good.
This recipe is definitely inspired by my other pasta bakes but more close to my Chicken Pasta Bake. These recipes both use chicken and bacon, this one however, the ingredients and method is slightly different and uses peas. Peas adds that touch of green, a veggie in the middle of cream, sauce and pasta, enough to convince you that it's healthy 🙂
Why You Should Make This Macaroni Pasta Bake
- First things first, pasta bakes are easy and delicious! There are so many ways to make them and generally the whole family will enjoy it!
- You can make the entire recipe ahead, leave it in the fridge covered and bake just before dinner time making it very convenient.
There are quite a few ingredients in this macaroni pasta bake, however, they are regular, pronounceable ingredients and are mostly added simultaneously.
What's not in the image is the stock or water and the butter but everything is in the recipe card which you can find below this post.
Chicken: Chicken breast cut into cubes.
Bacon: You can use shoulder bacon or bacon bits. If it is shoulder then make sure to cut the bacon into cubes.
Pasta: This recipe uses macaroni but you can use any small type of pasta or even whole-wheat if you want.
Cheese: We are using freshly grated mozzarella cheese. Feel free to use cheddar if you prefer or a combination of both depending on what's available.
Bell Peppers: Two small bell peppers, chopped.
Onion: Chopped, white or green onion both work well in this recipe.
Garlic: Preferably crushed garlic because the ingredients are added one after another without much time to cook until it's in the oven. If you don't want to see the garlic later, it's best you mince it.
Calabrese spice: From the Smell and Taste range. The Calabrese spice is an Italian Calabrian inspired spice that's bold, hot enough to elevate any dish!
Canned Tomatoes: Crushed canned tomatoes are great here and a good quality goes a long way. They are less watered down and have much more tomato in.
Frozen Peas: They add a lovely touch of green veg, and we love peas!
Fresh Parsley: Purely for garnish but I do add it as soon as the casserole comes out the oven so it can melt into the pasta.
My Makeshift Cream: Part coconut cream topped off with tomato passata.
Step by step instructions. The ingredients in the recipe card below are all in order of when you need to add them so you can follow the sequence and make a successful macaroni pasta bake!
These notes are to give you an idea of how you will be making this pasta bake. You will be using one pan for this recipe so make sure its large enough, 28 to 32 cm pan which is a regular large pan.
Sear the chicken all round till light golden brown in a little olive oil. Make sure that the chicken breasts are at room temperature and you've used kitchen tissue paper to dab off any moisture. The more dry the chicken is, the quicker and better it will take to the spices and the more even the sear will be.
Cook the onions in the remaining oil from the chicken but add butter to prevent the oil from burning entirely. The onions should cook on medium to high heat with a pinch of salt till soft. The onions will turn a light brown color, this is from the chicken pan juices, which is great flavor.
Add the bell peppers and give them a minute or so to cook. The ingredients are added one after the other and they don't need to cook since they will cook in the oven.
My makeshift cream that's poured into the sauce is a combination of 1 cup of coconut cream and ½ cup of tomato passata. We love the combination of cream and tomato when making pasta, it seems to give a better or different taste as opposed to adding them in separately. I love colorful food and building flavor layers is king in this kitchen.
Return the cooked pasta, bacon and chicken to the sauce with a little or part of the cheese, combine it all and transfer to a baking dish.
Top the whole dish off with mozzarella cheese and bake till light golden brown.
Tip: Use frozen peas, they are so good and have all the nutrients in tact since they are frozen in their early age. You can add the peas to the sauce or over the top as seen in this recipe. So many recipes have spinach in, give peas a chance!
Change your pasta types and go with what works for your family. We often use whole-wheat pasta or a new pasta shape to make it interesting, especially if you have smaller children.
A few other ways to make this recipe;
- Garlic, Cheese and Herb Toast
- Italian Herbed Olive Oil Bread Dip Recipe Mediterranean Style
- Greek Salad
More Delicious Pasta Recipes
Macaroni Pasta Bake, Tips and Suggestions
- Remember to reserve some of the pasta water, it's brilliant in bringing the sauce together. The starches in the water help give you a creamy sauce. Remember that even though regular water wont give you the same result, if you forget to save the pasta water, use regular water.
- Try not to over cook the pasta as it still has to cook in the oven. Follow the recommended recipe times.
Can I make this casserole ahead of time?
Yes! That's the convenience in this recipe! Make the complete recipe and don't bake, instead cover and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to bake. Later that day or overnight.
Can I take the casserole directly from the fridge to the oven?
No, you should take the casserole out the fridge, leave on the kitchen counter top to properly reach room temperature while the oven is preheating. I would suggest taking the casserole out before you preheat the oven to give it more time.
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If you try this Chicken Pasta Bake recipe feel free to leave me a comment and a star rating! And if you take a photo of your dish and share it on Instagram, tag me @anosmickitchen and use the hashtag #anosmickitchen because I love seeing your remakes! Happy cooking😀
Macaroni Pasta Bake
Chicken & Bacon
- 2 Chicken breasts, cubed
- 1 teaspoon Calabrese spice
- 1 teaspoon Salt and pepper or a generous pinch
- 250 grams Bacon, cooked and chopped
- 300 grams Macaroni pasta
- 3 Tbsps Olive oil
- 1 Onion, diced
- 3 Garlic, minced
- ½ cup chicken stock or water
- 2 small Bell peppers, chopped
- 400 grams Canned tomatoes (1 small can)
- 1 cup Frozen peas
- 1 cup Coconut cream
- ¼ cup Passata tomato
- ¼ cup thick whipping cream
Bake and Garnish
- 2 cups grated cheese, mozzarella or cheddar
- fresh parsley, chopped
- Sear the chicken all round till light golden brown in a little olive oil. Make sure that the chicken breasts are at room temperature and you've used kitchen tissue paper to dab off any moisture. The more dry the chicken is, the quicker and better it will take to the spices and the more even the sear will be. Once seared, set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
- Cook the onions in the remaining oil from the chicken but add butter to prevent the oil from burning entirely. The onions should cook on medium to high heat with a pinch of salt till soft. The onions will turn a light brown color, this is from the chicken pan juices, which is great flavor. Add the stock to deglaze the pan.
- Add the bell peppers and give them a minute or so to cook. The ingredients are added one after the other and they don't need to cook since they will cook in the oven.
- Add the tomatoes followed by ½ cup of water. Use a masher to press gently on the tomatoes breaking them up.
- Add the coconut cream and passata tomato and stir it into the tomatoes.Lower the heat and add the cream, mix it into the sauce.
- Return the cooked pasta, bacon and chicken to the sauce with a little or part of the cheese, combine it all and transfer to a baking dish.
- Top the whole dish off with mozzarella cheese and bake till light golden brown. Garnish with fresh parsley and Allow 5 minutes to cool before serving.