We 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.
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.
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.)
Toss in a few tablespoons of flour, and whisk it up for a minute.
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.
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.
Pull the slightly pink chicken out and shred it into bite-sized pieces.
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.
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.)
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.
No just toss it all together.
And put it in a 9×13 pan (or you could put it in individual baking dishes if you wanted)
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.
It all bakes up together for about 15 minutes. That finishes cooking the chicken and pasta perfectly, and toasts the buttery crumb topping.
Make sure you let this sit for 10-15 minutes so the sauce can set up before serving.
My kids devoured this, and my husband and I stuck our forks in the leftovers for the rest of the day. New family favorite!
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.
Chicken Noodle Casserole
Recipe slightly adapted from Cook’s Country April/May 2013
12 oz wide egg noodles (7 3/4 cups)
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped fine
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise and trimmed
4 ounces deli American cheese, chopped coarse
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed and patted dry
25 Ritz Crackers, crushed coarse
1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in a Dutch oven. Add noodles and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until just al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water until cool. Drain again and set aside.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in now-empty pot over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl; set aside. In now-empty pot, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in half and half, a little at at time as you whisk to incorporate flour mixture and smooth out lumps. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink, 8-10 minutes. (Chicken won’t be cooked all the way through, that’s okay)
3. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove pot from heat, transfer chicken to plate, and shred into bite-size pieces once cool enough to handle. Whisk American and cheddar cheeses into sauce until smooth. Stir shredded chicken, noodles, bell pepper mixture, peas, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/4 teaspoons pepper into cheese sauce.
4. Transfer mixture to 13×9 inch baking dish and top with crackers. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let casserole cool on wire rack for about 15 minutes. Serve.
love this post, love the show, can’t wait to try out this casserole!
I just started watching Granite Flats and was so happy that it’s a show I can watch with my young kiddos in the room. As soon as you said a cross between Goonies and Wonder Years, I knew what you were talking about. (I’m a BYU alum, too, and heard about this show at TOFW. Missed you guys this year!) I agree on all counts about casseroles…boring but nostalgic/comforting! Looking forward to trying this one on the fam!
Lovely casserole – I love anything chicken!! Wanted to point out two typos in your recipe (print version). American cheese to be chopped “coarse” and you have 1 1/2 peas – I think you left out the word “cups”. LOL!! Thanks for the great recipes!!!
I take it you don’t have to grease the pan? Also how many would this serve(no small children around)?
Looks like a winner. Thanks.
No, you don’t need to grease the pan. It makes a full 9×13 pan, so you can decide from there how big your servings would be, but I’d say 6-8 generous servings and 8-10 smaller ones.
I just wanted to thank you for sharing your recipes on your blog. I find all of your recipes easy to make and delicious. I always say choosing the correct recipe is 90% of the battle when it comes to cooking great food. I recommend your website and cook your recipes very often. I am making your fried rice recipe tonight and I have a stack of others I have printed from your website that I can’t wait to try.
We have been loving Granite Flats. This casserolle looks soo good.
This looks delicious! I wasn’t sure if Granite Flats would be boring, but it is excellent! I am really enjoying it!
So I’m guessing I drizzle butter over crushed crackers and add them on top? I don’t see that in your recipe 🙂
Nope, Ritz are already filled with buttery goodness so you don’t even have to add extra (but I won’t stop you if you want!)
Just made this for dinner…it was soooo good!
I’m guessing that you add 1 1/2 cups of peas, not 1 1/2 peas. Looking forward to trying this. I just bought two packages of No Yolk noodles (required for coupon), so this will help use them up.
Yes, 1 1/2 cups 🙂
Thank you for finding dinner for me tonight!
My 5 year old loves Granite Flats! After conference ended, my son was thrilled there was finally a show on that kept his attention. Please tell me it is not just my kid that fights us on watching conference?!? 🙂
YUM!! Definitely trying this next week! What a fun post!
I just saw a little thing on granite flats. I’ll have to check it out. Much love, ladies!
YAY!! We LOVE chicken noodle casserole and I’ve been wanting to find a way to make it without the cream soup. And I love the addition of the peppers. THANKS!!
Sounds like a dumb question but is cream OK to use instead of half and half? (That’s what’s in my fridge!) Also wondering what you suggestions, thoughts, or tips would be on freezing and then reheating this. Thanks! This looks super good! Can’t wait to make it! I make your stuff every single week! 🙂
I can’t see how cream could ever be a bad thing 😉 But it might be a bit heavy- I might do 3 parts cream to one part milk, just to balance it out a little, but yeah, it should be yummy (and extra creamy!)
I’m a fan of the casserole! Definitely trying this one out. Thank you!
We’ve been loving Granite Flats too! Love the ideas for the casserole, I’m going to incorporate them into the recipe I’ve already been using next time I make it!
Whoa…this looks delicious and so easy. Thanks for sharing!
I saw the first few episodes of Granite Flats at my parent’s house and loved it! The casserole looks yummy. Thanks for another fun recipe tot try.
Thanks for the show recommendation, we’ll check it out for sure 🙂
I love all your yummy ideas.I just started my own blog and would love anyone to stop by and check it out. Thanks!
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.
I LOVE old school casseroles like this!!! Yumm!!!
my family loves chicken noodle casserole!! Excited to try out a new recipe!
Studio C is the best show on BYUTV. Our whole family laughs so hard. We haven’t checked out Granite Flats yet.
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!
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.
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!!
We love Granite Flats too! I love casseroles. Can’t wait to try this!