Chicken, Bacon & Spinach Pasta Bake

SO easy. SO tasty.
In the midst of an all-day cooking bonanza Saturday that included making a giant Chicken Vegetable Lasagna, Italian Wedding Soup and Creamy Mushroom Dill Soup, I woke up Sunday morning not wanting to eat ANY of it. It happens. I know it’ll be good this week, but the next day, I needed a break from looking at it.

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After drinking coffee all morning and lazing around I went to make breakfast.  Thinking I would have eggs, I popped a few slices of bacon in the oven to bake. After staring at the egg carton, I decided I wanted something more lunch-y.  I still had about a cup of cooked chicken in the fridge from making lasgana,tons of fresh spinach, bacon browning…..a quick pasta dish came to mind. Rather than making béchamel, I took the lazy route of using cream cheese, a little pasta water and BACON FAT as a sauce.
You’ll see, it’s kind of perfect.

Chicken, Bacon & Spinach Pasta Bake
Serves 3 ~ 20 minutes 
6oz short, shaped pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
6 slices bacon
4 cups/4 handfuls fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 scallions, sliced green and white parts
1 c. cooked chicken, diced
4oz cream cheese, cut into cubes
3 oz mozzarella, shredded (or more to taste)
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp garlic powder
sea salt, black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9×11 pan with cooking spray.
On a tin-foil lined baking sheet, lay bacon in one layer. Bake for 10 minutes, flip and bake another 4 minutes or until your desired level of crispiness. Remove bacon to a paper towel and blot gently. KEEP THE TIN FOIL FULL OF BACON FAT.

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Once al dente, drain, reserving at least a cup of pasta water. Set both aside, keep warm.

While the bacon is in the oven and the pasta is boiling, make the filling:

In a LARGE bowl, add spinach, scallions, chicken, cream cheese, 2 oz of mozzarella, lemon juice and garlic powder. Dice the bacon, and throw it in. Use a fork to combine ingredients thoroughly, drizzling about 2 tsp of the reserved bacon fat into the mix. Add warm pasta water tablespoon by tablespoon to help the cream cheese blend into the mix. Once the mix is well combined, stir in the cooked pasta. Add more pasta water as needed to help mix combine. Taste here and add salt/pepper to taste (cheese and bacon are quite salty so I taste before I add). Pour pasta into greased baking dish. Drizzle another 2 tsp of bacon fat over the top. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the casserole. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool before serving. Serves 3.

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This is just a warm, gooey, cheesy pile of delicious with spinach, so WE HEALTHY.

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