Southwestern Chicken-Pasta Bake incorporates all the flavors from that region. This hearty baked dish is an excellent way to use leftover chicken, and it freezes well for future meals.
12 ounces linguine
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 6-oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
2 cups four-cheese Mexican blend
4 cups diced cooked chicken (from a rotisserie bird)
Chopped cilantro, optional
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 350°F; mist a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, about 10 minutes or as package directs. Drain.
Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder and 2 tsp. salt; sauté until onion is tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes longer.
Whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Cook, whisking, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and 1 cup cheese. Cook, whisking, for 1 minute or until cheese melts.
Remove from heat. Stir in chicken and pasta. Scrape into baking dish; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. (Preheat broiler to high and broil casserole for a minute to brown, if desired.) Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired; serve.