recipe

Chicken Caprese Pasta Bake

If you love the flavors of Caprese salad, you’ll love this Caprese inspired pasta! This Chicken Caprese Pasta Bake is made with tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, chicken thighs and baked until it’s hot and bubbly!

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The spring season usually means the return of lighter dishes like salads and grilled entrees.  But that doesn’t mean you have to ditch the pasta!  Instead of making pasta with thick sauces and heavy ingredients, you can take advantage of lighter, seasonal flavors and incorporate them into springtime pasta dishes.

Take Caprese salad, for instance.  It’s one of my all-time favorite spring/summer salads and all it takes to make it is a tomato, mozzarella, and basil.  I wanted to take those fresh flavors and turn them into a satisfying springtime pasta bake made with chicken.  Something light enough to enjoy all spring and summer, but filling enough to really hit the spot!

You can absolutely leave the chicken out to make this a meatless dish.  However, I used boneless skinless chicken thighs in this pasta bake.  Since I was precooking the chicken and then cooking it once again in the oven, I wanted to use a cut of chicken that would stay juicy.  Chicken thighs are a bit fattier than chicken breasts, but that helps them stay so juicy.  No dry chicken here!

Chicken Caprese Pasta Bake

This pasta bake can be put together beforehand to save time.  In fact, it’ll probably get better as it sits, as most pasta dishes do!  Just prepare everything, spoon it into a baking dish, and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook it.  Then, cook the pasta bake in the oven and enjoy!

I cut as much of the fat off the chicken thighs as possible, then cut the chicken into bite-size pieces.  I cooked the chicken in a little olive oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  Cook just until it’s completely cooked through.  Then, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Next, I started working on the “Caprese” part of this pasta bake.  So I wiped out the skillet and added a little more olive oil.  Then, I added garlic and grape tomatoes, cooking the grape tomatoes just until they started to burst, and tossed in some crushed red pepper and chopped basil.

Start the pasta while you wait for the tomatoes to cook.  Cook a short pasta cut like rotini, penne, or rigatoni in a boiling pot of water, just until it’s al dente.  Do not overcook the pasta!

Now, you can add the pasta and the cooked chicken back into the skillet of tomatoes and mix with 1 cup of crushed tomatoes and half of the shredded mozzarella cheese. Then, spoon everything into a baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Before sticking this pasta bake in the oven, top it with another sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.  Then, bake it for 20 minutes or until the mozzarella has melted (I used dairy-free cheese so it melts differently than regular cheese) and everything is bubbly and hot.

Chicken Caprese Pasta Bake

Chicken Caprese Pasta Bake

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken thighs, fat trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup fresh chopped basil, chopped
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz. rotini, or other short cut pasta
  • 8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Optional: chopped fresh basil, to garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the chicken thighs and cook through.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Wipe out the skillet and add the garlic, grape tomatoes, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Cook until the tomatoes start to burst, about 5-8 minutes. 
  4. Stir in the chopped basil and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cook the pasta until it's al dente. Drain and add the pasta and cooked chicken into the skillet of tomatoes.
  6. Toss in half of the shredded mozzarella and spoon the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  7. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella over the pasta and bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  8. Garnish with more fresh basil and serve.
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Serve this pasta bake with a side of crusty garlic bread or a fresh green salad.  Then, store the leftovers in the fridge and pop them back into the oven or microwave to reheat. As the pasta sits, it might soak up some of the sauce.  So if you prefer a saucier pasta bake, keep some extra crushed tomatoes on the side.

Did you make this Chicken Caprese Pasta Bake recipe? Share it on social media using the hashtag #livinglavidaeats. Don’t forget to tag me @lavidaholoka!

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