Creamy Chicken Noodle Casserole

Cheesy Chicken Noodle CasseroleWe certainly couldn’t do a Retro-Week without a casserole, right??  You may have noticed we don’t have many casseroles on our site.  And we kind of pride ourselves on having only have one (yes, one!) recipe that calls for cream-of-anything soup (don’t mess with funeral potatoes.)  But there is something so nostalgically comforting about a nice warm casserole, and even more so if it involves a crunchy topping.  Like I’m sure many of you did, we ate a lot of casseroles in my house growing up, and some of my favorites are still major comfort foods for me.  But now that my tastes have matured a little, I see that many of the popular throw-together casseroles have the same problems that make them not so appealing to me now.  They often involve bland flavors, over-cooked chicken (from putting already cooked chicken in a casserole dish and then baking it more) and mushy noodles or rice.  And while I don’t have anything against condensed  soups, I’d rather make something from scratch because it usually tastes much better.  This Chicken Noodle Casserole is a new family favorite, and it involves some tricks that solve the problems I was just talking about.  It’s just a good, creamy, cheesy, comforting, dish with noodles, chicken, and veggies and topped with a buttery crumb topping.

Let’s make this.   Bring some salted water to boil in a dutch oven.  We’re only going to boil the noodles for about 3 minutes.  They should be just barely al dente at that point and that’s how we want them.  By under-cooking the noodles here, we can add them into the casserole to let them finish cooking in the oven and avoid the mushy-noodle syndrome casseroles so often fall victim to.  As soon as they’ve cooked enough, we’ll rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process.

Cooking Noodles

Now that our pot is empty, add a pat of butter and saute some sweet bell pepper and a finely diced onion.  Those will cook for about 5 minutes and then you can take them out and set them in a bowl to the side.

red peppers

In goes a bit more butter for our roux.  (A roux is a mixture of fat and flour, used to thicken sauces.  Read more about making a roux, here.)

butter

Toss in a few tablespoons of flour, and whisk it up for a minute.

Flour for roux

Then very slowly add a little bit of liquid at a time (we’re using both chicken broth and half-and-half here) and whisk whisk whisk.  It will thicken immediately, and one of the secrets of a non-lumpy sauce is not to pour in all of the liquid at once.  Always add a little at a time, or a very slow steady stream as you whisk the entire time to incorporate the flour mixture.

stock and cream

After that sauce boils for about 5 minutes, we’ll add chicken directly to the pot. Gently poaching it will not only ensure juicy chicken, but it will flavor the sauce as well.  Another trick here is that we’re under-cooking the chicken just slightly, as we under-cooked the noodles.  This allows it to finish cooking in the oven, as opposed to over-cooking in the oven and ending up dry and chewy.

Chicken in Sauce

Pull the slightly pink chicken out and shred it into bite-sized pieces.

Shredded chicken

While you’re waiting for the chicken to be cool enough to handle, you can whisk your cheese into the sauce.  Sharp cheddar provides great flavor, and American gives the sauce body and a creamy smoothness.  In addition, American cheese provides unique stabilizers that prevent the sauce from breaking so it stays creamy and smooth from start to finish.

cheese

When you’re shopping for American cheese, hit the deli counter for the best quality (aka: avoid the Kraft Singles, that’s not what we’re going for here.)

cheese in sauce
Before we throw this all together, you’ll need some frozen peas.  I was just texting Kate the other day about how I don’t like peas, but oddly enough I think they totally work here.  They just provide a mellow sweetness (and a pop of color) that just sort of blends in well.  To avoid extra moisture in the sauce, I run my peas under warm water, drain them, and then pat them dry before putting them in.

Peas

No just toss it all together.

Casserole in sauce

And put it in a 9×13 pan (or you could put it in individual baking dishes if you wanted)

casserole prebake

And you can’t have a retro casserole without a retro topping.  Corn flakes and potato chips were on the list I’m sure, but the winner is buttery Ritz crackers.  They work like bread crumbs would, and make a crispy crunchy topping you’ll for sure want to pull off and eat before it’s actually time to serve this.

ritz crackers

It all bakes up together for about 15 minutes.  That finishes cooking the chicken and pasta perfectly, and toasts the buttery crumb topping.

Creamy Chicken Noodle Casserole from Our Best Bites

Make sure you let this sit for 10-15 minutes so the sauce can set up before serving.

Cheesy Chicken Noodle Casserole from Our Best Bites

My kids devoured this, and my husband and I stuck our forks in the leftovers for the rest of the day.  New family favorite!

Creamy Cheesy Chicken Noodle Casserole from Our Best Bites

If you want to prep this ahead, you could definitely make it up to the point where you top with crackers.  I would put it in the pan and then cover and refrigerate.  Before you bake it, give it a stir to distribute the sauce, and then sprinkle the crackers on right before baking.

 

 

Cheesy-Chicken-Noodle-Casserole-from-Our-Best-Bites

69 comments

  1. We have kids ages 5-15 and we all love Granite Flats. It is great to have a show that the whole family can enjoy. Also love your site and cookbooks, thanks for all your hard work.

  2. Studio C is the best show on BYUTV. Our whole family laughs so hard. We haven’t checked out Granite Flats yet.

  3. I’ve been shredding up rotisserie chicken & using that in casseroles & such. A lot of times the regular ones are a bit dry, but some grocery stores sell an extra-large version which I’ve had a lot of luck with. I just shred it up & freeze it until we need it ~ we hate dry chicken!

  4. I like that show for the same reasons you stated. We don’t have kids yet but I want to make it a habit of watching shows they could watch with us and this show is perfect for a family to watch together.

  5. Totally loving Granite Flats, though I have to catch either the late-night reruns or watch it online. LOL And I totally love old-fashioned casseroles too!! Definitely giving this one a try!! Yeah!!

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