Most reviewers say this recipe is difficult and time-consuming. I didn't find it particularly difficult, it just has a lot of steps and it's definitely not a 30-minute meal. However, considering a casserole is usually a one-dish meal per se, it's really not that bad. There's a video on the Food Network website showing you how Giada cooks it herself. I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter (I usually do that at least for the first time), but I cut down the portions by half and I had everything done in just a little under 2 hours, including baking time. I did make some slight modifications based on what was available in my pantry though:
- Penne instead of linguine - I prefer using short pastas for casseroles anyway
- Panko instead of Italian breadcrumbs
- Chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts - because Mr. Bear always prefers dark meat
- Cayenne pepper - added just for a little zest
For the portion that I made, I can easily feed 4 people, at least by Asian standards. Mr. Bear had it for lunch the next day and he said it tasted even better overnight. Try it! And let me know if you like it.
Adapted from Giada Laurentiis' recipe on Food Network
(Amounts are scaled to half of the serving size of the original recipe. Measurements are converted to metrics to make it easier for those outside of the US)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoons salt, plus more for pasta water
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
225 grams (1/2 pound) white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/16 teaspoon ground nutmeg
170 grams (6 ounces) dried penne
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Panko
1. Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F). Use 1/2 tablespoon of the butter to grease the baking dish.
2. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter and the olive oil in a deep large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the hot pan and cook until pale golden and just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
3. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl to cool slightly and coarsely shred the chicken into bite-size pieces.
4. Add the mushrooms to the same pan. Sauté over medium-high heat until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms become pale golden, about 12 minutes. Add 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. When it melts, add the onion, garlic, and thyme, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it evaporates, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mushroom mixture to the bowl with the chicken.
5. Melt the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in another pan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, broth, cream, nutmeg, remaining 3/4 salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Increase the heat to high. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 1 minute.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to instructions on the package until it is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 9-10 minutes. Drain.
7. Add the pasta, sauce, peas, and parsley to the chicken mixture. Toss until the sauce coats the pasta and the mixture is well blended.
8. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish. Stir the cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the casserole. Bake uncovered until golden brown on top and bubbly, about 25 minutes.