Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne

This was actually supposed to be a baked ziti, but it turns out ziti is just about impossible to find in grocery stores right now, so I went with a Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne instead. Sometimes you just have to roll with it! This recipe is a very vegetable-forward version of my Classic Baked Ziti, chock […]

The post Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne appeared first on Budget Bytes.

This was actually supposed to be a baked ziti, but it turns out ziti is just about impossible to find in grocery stores right now, so I went with a Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne instead. Sometimes you just have to roll with it! This recipe is a very vegetable-forward version of my Classic Baked Ziti, chock full of colorful vegetables, a quick homemade red sauce, and layers of ooey-gooey cheese. This recipes makes a LOT of pasta but the leftovers are awesome and freezable! 

Overhead view of a casserole dish full of roasted vegetable baked penne

Take a Short Cut

This roasted vegetable baked penne is kind of a labor of love because there are so many moving parts, BUT you can take a short cut by using some jarred pasta sauce instead of making your own. Use about one and a half 24oz. jars of store-bought pasta sauce in place of the homemade sauce listed below.

How to Store Leftovers

As I mentioned in the intro, this makes a LOT of pasta. But the leftovers are super yummy, and it makes a really great item to stash in your freezer for grab-n-go lunches or quick dinners on busy nights. After baking, divide the pasta into single serving containers and transfer to the refrigerator. Once fully cooled, you can transfer some (or all) of the containers to the freezer for longer storage. I usually leave as many as I can eat in one week in the fridge and freeze the left. The leftovers can be reheated quickly in the microwave.

What Vegetables Can You Use?

I used a classic mix of zucchini, yellow squash, red onion, and bell pepper so I could have a really colorful mix. If you want to substitute any of these vegetables, here are some other good options:

  • Mushrooms
  • Eggplant
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots

In general you want to opt for softer vegetables for this dish, as opposed to harder root vegetables, but if you do want to include vegetables that are more firm, make sure to cut them into much smaller pieces to help them soften more quickly while they roast.

Close up front view of roasted vegetable baked penne being scooped out of the casserole dish

 
Overhead view of roasted vegetable baked penne being scooped out of the casserole dish

Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne

Layers of pasta, flavorful roasted vegetables, a simple homemade red sauce, and melty cheese make this roasted vegetable baked penne to die for!
Total Cost $11.34 recipe / $1.42 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 494.86kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

Roasted Vegetables

  • 1 red onion $0.44
  • 1 zucchini $0.79
  • 1 yellow squash $1.11
  • 1 bell pepper $1.69
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil $0.26
  • tsp salt $0.02
  • tsp pepper $0.02

Simple Red Sauce

  • 1 yellow onion $0.32
  • 2 Tbsp butter $0.26
  • 1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes $0.79
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste $0.12
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning* $0.30
  • ¼ tsp salt $0.02
  • ½ cup water $0.02

Pasta & Cheese

  • 1 lb. penne $1.00
  • 15 oz. ricotta $2.19
  • 2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend**, divided $1.86
  • 1/4 tsp pepper $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp salt $0.02
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional garnish) $0.11

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Dice the red onion, zucchini, yellow squash, and bell pepper into 1-inch pieces. Spread the diced vegetables out over a large baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss until all the vegetables are coated in oil.
  • Roast the vegetables in the preheated oven, stirring once half way through, for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the edges are brown and caramelized.
  • While the vegetables are roasting, begin the red sauce. Finely dice the yellow onion and add it to a sauce pot with the butter. Sauté for a few minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt, and water.
  • Stir the sauce to combine. Allow the sauce to come up to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are finished roasting (about 30 minutes).
  • In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the shredded Italian cheese blend, and ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the penne. Once boiling, add the penne and continue to boil until the pasta is tender. Drain the penne in a colander, then return it to the pot with the heat turned off.
  • Stir one cup of the red sauce into the drained pasta to coat the pasta in flavor. Add the roasted vegetables to the remaining red sauce and stir to combine.
  • To layer the casserole, place half of the sauce coated penne in the bottom of a 9x13" or 3 quart casserole dish. Add half of the cheese mixture on top in dollops, followed by half of the roasted vegetable and red sauce mixture. The ingredients do not need to create a solid layer or completely cover the previous layer. Repeat with a second layer of pasta, cheese, and vegetable red sauce. Finally, top the casserole with the second cup of shredded Italian cheese blend.
  • Cover the casserole with foil, making sure it doesn't touch the cheese on top. Place the casserole in the oven (still turned on to 400ºF) and bake for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, remove the foil and switch the oven from bake to broil. Broil the top of the casserole to brown the cheese for 3-5 minutes (watch closely as broilers can vary quite a bit from oven to oven). Top with chopped parsley if desired and serve!

Notes

*If you do not have Italian seasoning, you can replace this with equal parts dried basil, dried oregano, dried morjoram, and thyme.
*If you do not have shredded Italian cheese blend, use equal amounts shredded mozzarella, Parmesan, and provolone. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 494.86kcal | Carbohydrates: 60.24g | Protein: 20.76g | Fat: 19.79g | Sodium: 681.56mg | Fiber: 5.35g

How to Make Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne

Whole vegetables on a cutting board

For the roasted vegetables I used one red onion, one zucchini, one yellow squash, and one red bell pepper. You can choose just about any vegetable you’d like (see notes above the recipe for suggestions).

Diced vegetables on a baking sheet

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Dice the vegetables into 1-inch pieces. Place the diced vegetables on a large baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables until they are coated in oil.

Roasted vegetables on the baking sheet

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and roast, stirring once halfway through, for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and caramelized on the edges.

Diced onion and butter in a sauce pot

While the vegetables are roasting, begin the rest of the casserole. Start with the homemade red sauce. Dice one yellow onion and add it to a sauce pot with 2 Tbsp butter. Sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft.

Red sauce ingredients in the pot

Once the onions are soft, add one 28oz. can crushed tomatoes, 3 Tbsp tomato paste, 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning, 1/4 tsp salt, and ½ cup water. Stir to combine. Allow the sauce to come up to the simmer, then turn the heat down to low and let it continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are done roasting (about 30 minutes). 

Cheese mixture ingredients in a bowl

While the vegetables are roasting and the red sauce is simmering away, prepare the cheese. Stir together 15oz. ricotta, 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend, ¼ tsp pepper, and ¼ tsp salt.

Stirring red sauce into cooked pasta.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add 1 lb. penne and continue to boil until the penne is tender. Drain the pasta in a colander, then return it to the pot with the heat turned off. Add 1 cup of the red sauce and stir to coat.

Roasted vegetables added to the pot of red sauce.

Stir the roasted vegetables into the rest of the red sauce.

Layer one of baked penne in the casserole dish

Now that the sauce, cheese, and pasta are done, it’s time to start layering! Add half of the sauce coated pasta to the bottom of a 9×13″ (3 quart) casserole dish. Next, add half of the cheese mixture in dollops, followed by half of the vegetable red sauce. Each layer will not fully cover the previous layer. You don’t need to spend time trying to spread it out. It will all melt together as it bakes.

Second layers of baked penne in the casserole dish

Repeat with a second layer of pasta, cheese, and vegetable red sauce. Finally, add the second cup of shredded Italian cheese blend on top.

Baked Penne casserole with foil covering half the dish

Cover the casserole dish with foil, taking care not to let it touch the cheese. Bake the casserole for 35 minutes.

Finished roasted vegetable baked penne in the casserole dish

After 35 minutes, remove the foil and change the oven from bake to broil. Let it broil for a few minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown on top. Top with a couple tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley for garnish, if desired.

Overhead view of roasted vegetable baked penne being scooped out of the casserole dish

Enjoy!

The post Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Blackened Salmon with Zucchini

Are you ready for a dinner that is seriously easy and is so good that it will make you go weak in the knees? Just wait until you try this Blackened Salmon with Zucchini. The preparation couldn’t be more simple, yet the results are absolutely stunning. It’s the perfect example of how food doesn’t have […]

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Are you ready for a dinner that is seriously easy and is so good that it will make you go weak in the knees? Just wait until you try this Blackened Salmon with Zucchini. The preparation couldn’t be more simple, yet the results are absolutely stunning. It’s the perfect example of how food doesn’t have to be complicated to be good. 

Blackened salmon with zucchini on a white plate with a black fork

Blackened Doesn’t Mean Burned

“Blackening” is a cooking technique popularized by Chef Paul Prudhomme in the 1980s. It involves coating the fish in spices and cooking at a high temperature in butter until the paprika in the spice mix and butter solids form a very dark and delicious “blackened” crust. While the exterior of the fish may appear very dark brown or almost black, there shouldn’t be a burnt flavor.

What Spices Do You Use for Blackening?

I used my Homemade Cajun Seasoning for this blackened salmon, but you can take a short cut and use a store-bought blackened seasoning blend, if you prefer. Just keep in mind that store-bought seasoning mixes may contain a different amount of salt, so you may need to add more or less to compensate.

What Kind of Skillet is Best?

The blackening technique is traditionally done with a cast iron skillet, which is great at providing the high even heat needed to form that butter-infused spice crust. I used a non-stick skillet, which I know will make some people clutch their pearls, but I was still able to get a really nice crust on my blackened salmon so I was okay with it. I’m going to just go ahead and tell you to use whatever type of cookware is easiest for you and gives you the least amount of anxiety about the fish sticking because there is nothing more devastating than losing an expensive piece of salmon stuck to a piece of cookware (although there should be plenty of oil and butter to keep that from happening here). ;) 

What to Serve with Blackened Salmon and Zucchini

I ate this as a meal on its own, but if you want to round out your plate with some carb action, I think this would be great on a bed of seasoned rice. A side of Vinaigrette Slaw with Feta would also be a nice compliment.

A fork flaking a piece of blackened salmon on the plate with zucchini

 

 

Blackened salmon with zucchini on a plate with a black fork on the side

Blackened Salmon with Zucchini

Blackened salmon coated in Cajun spices, cooked to perfection in butter, and paired with simple sautéed zucchini makes a simple but delicious dinner!
Total Cost $13.30 recipe / $3.33 serving
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 323.63kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

Cajun Seasoning

  • 2 tsp smoked paprika $0.20
  • 1 tsp dried thyme $0.10
  • 1 tsp dried oregano $0.10
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin $0.05
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne $0.02
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder $0.05
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp salt $0.02

Salmon and Zucchini

  • 1.3 lbs. salmon $10.65
  • 2 Tbsp butter $0.26
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil $0.04
  • 1.3 lbs. zucchini $1.79

Instructions

  • Combine the spices for the Cajun seasoning in a bowl (smoked paprika, thyme, oregano, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper).
  • Remove the skin from the salmon, then cut it into four equal-sized portions (if not already cut). Generously coat all sides of the fish in the prepared Cajun seasoning.
  • Slice the zucchini into half-rounds and set aside.
  • Add the butter and cooking oil to a skillet and heat over medium-high. When the skillet is hot and the butter is melted and foaming, add the salmon pieces. Cook the salmon for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until a dark brown crust forms and the salmon is cooked through*.
  • Remove the cooked fish to a clean plate. Add the sliced zucchini to the skillet in its place. Quickly sauté the zucchini in the residual butter and spices until it is tender. Serve the salmon and zucchini immediately.

Notes

*The FDA recommends an internal temperature of 145ºF for fish.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 323.63kcal | Carbohydrates: 6.35g | Protein: 31.48g | Fat: 19.3g | Sodium: 405.18mg | Fiber: 2.3g

How to Make Blackened Salmon with Zucchini – Step by Step Photos

Cajun spice mix in a wooden bowl

Make the Cajun spice mix first. Combine 2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp dried oregano, ½ tsp ground cumin, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Stir the spices together.

Season salmon filets

Remove the skin from one salmon filet (1.3 lbs.), then cut it into four equal-sized pieces, keeping in mind that one end is usually thicker than the other. Generously coat all sides of the salmon filets with the Cajun seasoning. 

Butter and oil in the skillet

Add 2 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp cooking oil to a skillet. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat.

Blackened salmon being turned with tongs in the skillet

When the skillet is hot, the butter melted and foaming, add the seasoned salmon pieces. Let them cook for about 5-7 minutes on the first side, or until a dark brown crust has formed, then flip and cook for another 5-7 minutes on the other side, or until cooked through. The total cooking time may vary with the thickness of your salmon pieces.

Sliced zucchini on a cutting board

While the salmon is cooking, slice the zucchini into half-rounds.

finished blackened salmon in the skillet

Once the blackened salmon is finished cooking, remove it from a skillet to a clean plate. There should be a ton of spice-infused butter still in the skillet, so we’re going to take advantage of that for the zucchini!

Cooked zucchini in the skillet

Add the zucchini to the skillet (still over medium-high) and sauté the zucchini for just a few minutes or until it softens just a bit. The zucchini will pick up all the leftover herbs and spices in the skillet.

Blackened salmon with zucchini on a plate with a black fork on the side

Serve immediately or pack it up into meal prep containers and enjoy for the next few days (I did!).

The post Blackened Salmon with Zucchini appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

This Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili is the perfect example of why people love slow cookers so much. You literally just dump everything in the slow cooker, give it a quick stir, then turn it on and walk away. When you come back you have this hearty white bean chicken chili that’s ready for topping […]

The post Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili appeared first on Budget Bytes.

This Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili is the perfect example of why people love slow cookers so much. You literally just dump everything in the slow cooker, give it a quick stir, then turn it on and walk away. When you come back you have this hearty white bean chicken chili that’s ready for topping with creamy cheese and diving in with some tortilla chips. And when the sky is dark, the air is cold, and you’ve got the winter blues, easy dinners like this are a total life saver!

Originally posted 1-2-2015, updated 2-9-2020.

Crock Pot White Chicken Chili

Two bowls of slow cooker white chicken chili topped with cheese and blue tortilla chips on the side

See this recipe used in my weekly meal prep.

Does White Chicken Chili Have Chili Powder?

Nope! Unlike traditional red chili, this “white” chili does not contain chili powder. It’s flavored using salsa verde, cumin, and oregano. This chili gets its name from the white beans used in place of the red kidney beans used in red chili.

Is This Chili Spicy?

This chili is a “medium” level spicy. If you want to make the chili more mild, skip the jalapeño and cayenne pepper listed in the ingredients, and make sure to use a mild salsa verde.

What Size Slow Cooker do I Need?

You can make this in a 3-4 quart slow cooker, or double the recipe for a 5-7 qt slow cooker and feed a crowd. I have a 5 quart slow cooker (affiliate link) and the recipe, as listed below, filled it about half way.

Can This White Chicken Chili be Frozen?

Yes, this chili freezes very well! As always, make sure to chill your chili completely in the refrigerator first, before transferring to the freezer for long term storage. I prefer to freeze all my leftovers in single portions so they can be reheated one by one whenever I get hungry.

Chili Topping Ideas

I highly suggest topping this chili with something creamy, like the Monterrey jack cheese listed in the ingredients below, some sour cream, or avocado. The creamy flavor is the perfect contrast to the salsa verde. You can also top with some green onion, sliced jalapeño, cilantro, pico de gallo, crumbled cornbread, or pickled red onions.

Overhead view of Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili in the slow cooker

 

Easy Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

The slow cooker does all the work with this easy, flavorful, and healthy white chicken chili. This "dump and go" dinner will become a family favorite!

  • 1 yellow onion ($0.32)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1 jalapeño (optional) ($0.11)
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast (about 3/4 lb.) ($3.62)
  • 1 16 oz. jar salsa verde ($2.59)
  • 2 15 oz. cans cannellini beans ($0.98)
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans ($0.89)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin ($0.30)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano ($0.10)
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper ($0.02)
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper ($0.03)
  • 2 cups chicken broth ($0.26)
  • 4 oz Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded ($0.85)
  1. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Slice the jalapeńo lengthwise, scrape out the seeds with a spoon, then dice. Place the onion, garlic, jalapeño, and chicken breast in the bottom of a slow cooker.
  2. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and pinto beans, then add them to the slow cooker, along with the cumin, oregano, cayenne, and freshly ground black pepper. Pour the salsa over top.

  3. Pour two cups of chicken broth over the contents in the cooker and then give everything a brief stir. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours, or on low for eight hours.

  4. After four hours on high, or eight hours on low, carefully remove the chicken breast from the slow cooker and use two forks to shred the meat. Return the meat to the slow cooker. Stir the chili, slightly mashing the beans with the back of the spoon as you stir. The mashed beans will help thicken the chili.

  5. Serve the chili topped with shredded Monterrey Jack cheese. Other optional toppings include fresh cilantro, diced avocado, freshly squeeze lime, or tortilla chips.

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Close up overhead view of a bowl full of slow cooker white chicken chili

How to Make Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili – Step by Step Photos

Onion, garlic, jalapeño, and chicken breast in the slow cooker

Dice one yellow onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Slice the jalapeño in half, scrape out the seeds, then dice the remaining pepper. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeño, and chicken breast to the slow cooker.

Beans and spices added to slow cooker

Drain and rinse two 15oz. cans of cannellini beans and one 15oz. can of pinto beans. Add the drained beans to the slow cooker along with 1 Tbsp cumin, 1 tsp oregano, ¼ tsp cayenne, and some freshly cracked black pepper.

Salsa verde being poured into the slow cooker

Pour one 16oz. jar of salsa verde into the slow cooker (I’ve used many brands for this recipe in the past, the one in the photo is Kroger’s Private Selectrion brand).

Chicken broth being poured into the slow cooker

Pour two cups of chicken broth into the slow cooker.

Briefly stir the slow cooker

Briefly stir the contents of the slow cooker to distribute the spices. Place a lid on top and cook on high for four hours, or low for eight hours.

Chicken breast being removed from slow cooker with tongs

After cooking on high for four hours, or on low for eight hours, remove the chicken breast to a clean cutting board to shred (or you can shred directly in the pot with two forks).

Shredded chicken on cutting board

Shred the chicken using two forks.

Chicken returned to slow cooker

Return the shredded chicken to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Use the back of a spoon to smash some of the beans agains the side of the pot. The smashed beans will help thicken the chili.

A spoonful of white chicken chili being lifted out of the bowl, blue corn chips in the background

Top with your favorite ingredients and enjoy!

The post Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Classic Baked Ziti

As soon as the weather turns cool, I grab the cozy sweaters and start cooking the comfort food, like this Classic Baked Ziti. It’s rich and gooey with its layers of pasta, homemade red sauce with Italian sausage, and three types of melty cheese. Total comfort in a bowl. And the best part is that […]

The post Classic Baked Ziti appeared first on Budget Bytes.

As soon as the weather turns cool, I grab the cozy sweaters and start cooking the comfort food, like this Classic Baked Ziti. It’s rich and gooey with its layers of pasta, homemade red sauce with Italian sausage, and three types of melty cheese. Total comfort in a bowl. And the best part is that Baked Ziti is not fussy. You don’t have to worry about delicate sheet pasta or getting your layers perfect. It’s freeform, messy goodness at its best!

Classic Baked Ziti with Sausage

Overhead view of a wooden spoon scooping baked ziti out of the corner of a white casserole dish

Can I Use a Different Pasta Shape?

If you can’t find ziti (a smooth, tubular shaped pasta), you can substitute penne or rigatoni in this recipe. Rigatoni is the most similar to ziti, the only difference being that it has a ridges and is slightly shorter and wider. 

Can I Add Vegetables to Baked Ziti?

Yes! I almost always add extra vegetables to whatever I’m cooking, but today I decided to go with the classic form of Baked Ziti. If I were to add vegetables, I would probably add some fresh spinach into the sauce and stir until it is wilted. Or, roast some broccoli, zucchini, or eggplant, and then toss that into the sauce. 

Can I Substitute the Sausage?

The Italian sausage adds a lot of flavor to this dish, but there are still a few options for substituting the sausage. You can use ground beef, turkey, or chicken, but you’ll probably want to double the Italian seasoning blend to make up for the herbs that are found in Italian sausage. You can also use a vegetarian Italian sausage alternative, or substitute with a pound of chopped mushrooms.

Front view of a wooden spoon lifting a scoopful of Baked Ziti from the casserole dish

What Should I Serve with Baked Ziti?

Homemade Garlic Bread is awesome with baked ziti, but if you want some vegetables on the side I would go with something like Oven Roasted Frozen Broccoli, or do a simple side salad of mixed greens with Italian dressing, and whatever vegetables you have in your fridge (tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, etc.). 

How Long Does This Last?

This Baked Ziti will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. I highly suggest dividing the leftovers into single servings so they cool quickly in the refrigerator. This recipe makes 8 large servings, so once the servings are cooled completely in the refrigerator, you can transfer a few to the freezer for longer storage. Then each serving is just a quick microwave away from being a filling last-minute dinner!

 

Classic Baked Ziti

Like a freeform lasagna, this Baked Ziti has layers of pasta, homemade red sauce with Italian sausage, and three types of melty cheese!

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage (sweet, mild, or hot) ($3.49)
  • 1 yellow onion ($0.27)
  • 3 oz. tomato paste ($0.27)
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes ($1.00)
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend ($0.30)
  • 1/2 cup water ($0.00)
  • 1 lb. ziti ($1.67)
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt (for pasta water) ($0.05)
  • 15 oz. ricotta ($1.69)
  • 1 cup Italian cheese blend* ($1.15)
  • freshly cracked black pepper ($0.05)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella ($2.29)
  • 1 handful chopped parsley (optional, for garnish) ($0.20)
  1. Brown the sausage in a large skillet or pot over medium heat, until it's brown and crispy on the edges (pork sausage contains a lot of fat, so I didn't add any extra to the skillet).

  2. While the sausage is browning, finely dice the onion. Add the onion to the skillet once the sausage has browned, and continue to sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.

  3. Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and 1/2 cup water to the skillet with the sausage and stir to combine. Place a lid on the skillet and allow it to come up to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat down and allow it to continue to simmer while you cook the ziti. Stir the sauce occasionally as it simmers.

  4. After getting the sauce started, begin the ziti. Bring a large pot of water with 1/2 Tbsp salt to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the ziti, and let it continue to boil until the ziti is tender (about 7-8 minutes). Drain the ziti in a colander. Shake the colander a bit to shake excess water out of the pasta.

  5. While the pasta and sauce are cooking, prepare the cheese filling. Add the ricotta, Italian cheese blend, and some freshly cracked black pepper (about 10 cranks of a pepper mill) to a bowl and stir to combine. Begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF.

  6. After draining the ziti, return it to the pot and add 1 cup of the red sauce. Stir to coat the cooked pasta in sauce.

  7. Pour half of the ziti to a 9×13" baking dish. Add half of the ricotta mixture on top of the ziti in small dollops. Finally, spoon half of the red sauce and sausage over the pasta and ricotta. It's okay if the ingredients don't cover in a solid layer. Repeat these layers with the second half of the pasta, ricotta mixture, and sauce. Finally, top with 2 cups shredded mozzarella.

  8. Cover the baking dish with foil, making sure it's slightly tented so that it doesn't touch or stick to the melted cheese. Transfer the covered casserole to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

  9. After baking for 20 minutes, remove the foil, and turn the oven on to broil (keep the casserole on the middle rack, about 10-12 inches from the broiler). Broil for 5 minutes, or just until the cheese is slightly browned. Keep a close eye on the baked ziti as it broils, because broilers can vary in intensity. Top with chopped parsley, if desired, then serve.

*In place of Italian cheese blend you can use a mix of mozzarella and Parmesan.

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

A white plate with baked ziti, garlic bread, and a black fork.

 

How to Make Baked Ziti – Step by Step Photos

Browned Italian sausage in a skillet

Begin by browning 1 pound Italian sausage in a skillet until it is brown and crispy on the edges. Pork sausage has quite a bit of fat in it on its own, so I didn’t add any extra to the skillet.

Diced onion added to the skillet with the sausage

While the sausage is browning, finely dice a yellow onion. Add it to the skillet with the browned sausage and continue to sauté for a few minutes more, or until the onion is soft and translucent.

Crushed tomatoes being poured into the skillet, with sausage, onions, tomato paste, and Italian seasoning

Add 3 oz. tomato paste (half of a 6 oz. can – don’t forget to freeze the rest of the can!), 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend, one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, and 1/2 cup water. Stir to combine, place a lid on the skillet, and let it come up to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat down to low and let it continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, while you begin cooking the ziti.

Boiled ziti in a pot of water with a wooden spoon

Once the sauce is simmering away, begin cooking the ziti. Bring a large pot of water with 1/2 Tbsp salt to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add 1 lb. ziti. Continue to boil the ziti until tender, then drain in a colander. Shake the colander a bit to shake out the excess water.

Ricotta, Italian cheese, and black pepper in a bowl

While the ziti is boiling and the sauce is simmering, make the ricotta cheese blend. Add 15 oz. ricotta, 1 cup Italian cheese blend, and some freshly cracked black pepper to a bowl. Stir to combine. Also begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF at the time.

Sauce being added to cooked ziti in the pot.

After draining the ziti, return it to the pot and add 1 cup of the red sauce. Stir to coat the ziti in the sauce.

First layers of pasta, cheese, and sauce in the casserole dish

Pour half of the sauce coated ziti into a 9×13″ casserole dish. Add half of the ricotta mixture on top of the ziti in small dollops, then add half of the red sauce on top. Don’t worry if the layers don’t cover each other in a solid layer. It doesn’t have to be perfect!

Second layers of pasta, ricotta, and sauce, and final layer of mozzarella

Repeat with a second layer of pasta, ricotta mixture, and sauce, then top with 2 cups shredded mozzarella.

Baked ziti with melted cheese and foil peeled back

Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Make sure the foil is slightly tented so it doesn’t touch the cheese and stick when it melts.

Broiled baked ziti with browned cheese on top

After baking for 20 minutes, remove the foil, turn the oven to broil, and return the casserole to the oven (keep it on the middle rack, about 10-12 inches from the broiler). Broil for about 5 minutes, or just until the cheese is browned on top. Keep a close eye as it broils because broilers can vary in intensity.

Finished baked ziti casserole topped with chopped parsley and a wooden spoon on the side

Garnish with a little chopped parsley, if desired, then serve!

Overhead view of a spoon just beginning to dig into the baked ziti casserole

The post Classic Baked Ziti appeared first on Budget Bytes.

One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

This One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta was inspired by those little packets of powdered pasta sauce mix I always see in the grocery store. While those little packets are probably great for camping, stocking a bomb shelter, or keeping in your emergency hurricane supplies, I think regular weeknights call for something better. Better but […]

The post One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta appeared first on Budget Bytes.

This One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta was inspired by those little packets of powdered pasta sauce mix I always see in the grocery store. While those little packets are probably great for camping, stocking a bomb shelter, or keeping in your emergency hurricane supplies, I think regular weeknights call for something better. Better but not harder. This Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta comes together in about 25 minutes, is super luscious and creamy, and uses just a few simple ingredients. ;)

Overhead view of a skillet full of one pot creamy pesto chicken pasta with a wooden spoon in the side.

Chicken, Spinach, and Tomatoes Optional

This recipe idea started as just pasta and sauce. Because sometimes that’s all you need to be satisfied. But I like to rummage through my pantry, fridge, and freezer to find leftover ingredients that can be added to whatever I’m cooking. So I ended up with this creamy pesto chicken pasta, with spinach and sun dried tomatoes. But I ate it as just pasta and sauce during testing and it still made me do the happy chair wiggle.

What Type of Pasta Should I Use?

I used penne pasta, but bowties or rotini would also work well. Because this pasta to broth ratio is very important in one pot pastas I can’t vouch for alternative pastas like gluten-free, rice, chickpea, or even whole wheat pasta. They absorb broth differently than semolina pasta and may not work the same in this recipe.

Tips for Success with “one pot” Pastas

One pot pastas can be tricky for some because the pasta is cooked in a much smaller amount of liquid than traditional pasta cooking methods. Here are a few tips to make sure your one pot pasta cooks evenly and to the right texture:

  • Make sure you’re using quality cookware. Use cookware that is thick, heavy, and transfers heat evenly. Thin cookware will leave some pasta overcooked and some pasta undercooked.
  • Use a burner that is close in size to your cookware. This will help the pot heat evenly and cook the pasta evenly.
  • Make sure the broth maintains a strong simmer throughout the cooking time. If it’s not simmering, the pasta will become mushy.
  • Stir every few minutes to prevent sticking and make sure the pasta cooks evenly.
  • Keep the pot covered to trap steam, which will help cook the pasta.

Close up of One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta in the skillet with a wooden spoon.

 

One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta

This super lush and Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta is perfect for busy weeknights. Everything cooks in one pot and is done in under 30 minutes! 

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast ($5.56)
  • 2 Tbsp butter ($0.26)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1/2 lb. penne pasta ($0.40)
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth ($0.20)
  • 1 cup milk ($0.32)
  • 3 oz. cream cheese* ($0.29)
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto ($0.73)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan ($0.44)
  • freshly cracked pepper ($0.03)
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper ($0.02)

Optional Add-Ins

  • 3 cup fresh spinach ($0.90)
  • 1/4 cup sliced sun dried tomatoes ($1.10)
  1. Cut the chicken breast into 1-inch pieces. Add the butter to a deep skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook over medium heat until the chicken is slightly browned on the outside.

  2. While the chicken is cooking, mince the garlic. Add the garlic to the skillet with the chicken and continue to sauté for one minute more.

  3. Add the uncooked pasta and chicken broth to the skillet with the chicken and garlic. Stir to dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring the broth up to a boil.

  4. Once the broth comes to a full boil, give the pasta a quick stir, replace the lid, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let the pasta simmer over medium-low heat for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the broth has been absorbed. Stir the pasta briefly every two minutes as it simmers, replacing the lid quickly each time.

  5. Once the pasta is tender and most of the broth absorbed, add the milk, cream cheese (cut into chunks), and pesto. Stir and cook over medium heat until the cream cheese has fully melted into the sauce. Finally, add the grated Parmesan and stir until combined.

  6. If using, add the fresh spinach and sliced sun dried tomatoes. Stir until the spinach has wilted, then remove the pasta from the heat. Top the pasta with freshly cracked pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper, then serve.

*Cream cheese usually has markings on the outer wrapping showing lines for each ounce. Use this as a guide to cut three ounces from the block.

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Close up of one pot creamy pesto chicken pasta in a shallow bowl with a black fork.

Love one pot pasta? Check out my One Pot Meals category for more! 

How to Make Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta – Step by Step Photos

Browned chicken pieces in a deep skillet

Cut one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast into 1-inch pieces. Add 2 Tbsp butter to a deep skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and sauté until the chicken is slightly browned on the outside. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and sauté for one minute more. (I’m using an OXO 4-quart covered skillet)

Uncooked pasta and chicken broth added to the skillet

Add 1/2 lb. uncooked penne pasta and 1.5 cups chicken broth to the skillet. Stir briefly to dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.

Lid being placed on the skillet with uncooked pasta and chicken

Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and allow the broth to come up to a full boil.

Cooked pasta in the skillet with a spatula pulling the pasta to the side to show no broth remains

Once the broth comes to a full boil, give the pasta a brief stir, replace the lid, turn the heat down to medium-low and let it continue to simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the broth absorbed. Stir the pasta every two minutes or so as it simmers, replacing the lid each time.

Milk being poured into the skillet with chunks of cream cheese and pesto.

Add 3 oz. cream cheese (cut into chunks), 1/3 cup pesto, and 1 cup milk to the skillet. Stir and cook the mixture over medium until the cream cheese has fully melted and the sauce is creamy.

Finished creamy pesto pasta sauce and pasta in the skillet

Once the cream cheese has fully melted in, add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and stir to combine.

Spinach and sun dried tomatoes added to the skillet

If you’re adding spinach and sun dried tomatoes, like I did, add them once the sauce is finished and stir just until the spinach has wilted, then remove the skillet from the heat.

Finished creamy pesto chicken pasta in the skillet topped with black pepper and crushed red pepper

Whether you are using spinach and sun dried tomatoes or not, finish the creamy pesto chicken pasta off with some freshly cracked pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. The little pops of flavor that these two bring to the dish really take it to the next level!

Close up of One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta in the skillet with a wooden spoon

Dive in! :)

The post One Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta appeared first on Budget Bytes.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

What am I doing over here cooking a casserole on one of the hottest days of the summer? Crazy, perhaps, but the stomach wants what the stomach wants, and mine wants King Ranch Chicken Casserole! This creamy cheesy chicken and tortilla casserole is pure comfort food heaven and I guess that’s just what I need […]

The post King Ranch Chicken Casserole appeared first on Budget Bytes.

What am I doing over here cooking a casserole on one of the hottest days of the summer? Crazy, perhaps, but the stomach wants what the stomach wants, and mine wants King Ranch Chicken Casserole! This creamy cheesy chicken and tortilla casserole is pure comfort food heaven and I guess that’s just what I need after months of eating nothing but summery refrigerator salads. 😅

A casserole dish with baked King Ranch Chicken Casserole next to a plate with a serving dished out.

What is King Ranch Chicken Casserole?

King Ranch Chicken Casserole is a classic Texan casserole, with layers of chicken, cheese, tortillas, and a rich creamy gravy (read about the purported history of the casserole here). Like a lot of casseroles, King Ranch Casserole is usually made with canned condensed soups. But if you know me, you know that I can’t get down with that. So I made a from-scratch version of this classic recipe, with a quick and easy homemade creamy chicken gravy. 

King Ranch Chicken Casserole, My Way

This is one of those recipes where there are as many versions as there are small towns in America. My interpretation of Kinch Ranch Chicken Casserole has a little less “sauce” and a little more texture. I did this by using crunchy tortilla chip strips (the thick rectangular chips) instead of raw corn tortillas, and used a little less of that creamy gravy than you might normally find in a King Ranch Casserole. It’s still creamy, cheesy, and good, just less gloopy

Overhead view of the bottom half of the casserole dish with baked King Ranch Chicken Casserole and two empty plates on the sides

The Rotisserie Chicken Short Cut

If you want to make your King Ranch Chicken Casserole a little easier, you can skip cooking the raw chicken breasts below and use pulled meat from a rotisserie chicken. You’ll need 2-3 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken to replace the chicken breasts. You can start the recipe with the step where you add butter, onion, and bell pepper to the skillet, modifying by adding the 1 Tbsp chili powder to the vegetables instead of to the raw chicken.

How Spicy is This King Ranch Chicken Casserole?

My casserole’s spice level was virtually non-detectable. The heat level will vary based on two ingredients: the chili powder and the diced tomatoes with green chiles (Rotel). Chili powder (which is a chili seasoning, not ground red chiles) can vary in heat from brand to brand and the one I have right now (a grocery store generic) has zero heat. The same is true for canned diced tomatoes with green chiles. Some brands are spicy, some are mild. Some label them as spicy or mild, some do not. So just be aware of these two ingredients if you’re trying to control the heat.

 

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

This made from scratch King Ranch Chicken Casserole has layers of chicken, tortillas, cheese, and a creamy sauce, with NO canned soups! 

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (.79)
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder (~TN0~xxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx
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  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil (~TN0~xxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx
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  • 2 Tbsp butter (~TN0~xxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx
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  • 1 yellow onion (~TN0~xxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx
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  • 1 green bell pepper (~TN0~xxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx
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    xxxxxxx xxxx xxxx~TN0~.63)
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour (~TN0~xxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx
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  • 1 cup chicken broth (~TN0~xxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx
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  • 1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles (Rotel) (~TN0~xxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx
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  • 1/2 cup sour cream (~TN0~xxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx
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    xxxxxxx xxxx xxxx~TN0~.22)
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded (.69)
  • 5 cups tortilla chip strips* (.00)
  • 2 green onions (~TN0~xxx xxxxxx xxxxxxxx
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  1. Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, and use a mallet or rolling pin to pound the chicken to an even thickness, about 3/4 to 1-inch thick. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with chili powder.

  2. Heat the cooking oil in a large skillet over medium. Once hot, swirl the oil to coat the surface of the skillet, then add the seasoned chicken breast. Cook the chicken until browned on each side and cooked through, about 5 minutes each side. Remove the chicken to a clean cutting board to cool.

  3. While the chicken is cooking, finely dice the onion and bell pepper, and shred the cheddar cheese. Begin to preheat the oven to 375ºF.

  4. After removing the chicken from the skillet, add the butter, onion, and bell pepper. Sauté the onion and bell pepper in the butter over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent.

  5. Add the flour to the skillet with the onion and bell pepper. Continue to sauté for about one minute more, or until the flour coats the bottom of the skillet and turns golden brown.

  6. Add the chicken broth to the skillet and stir to dissolve the flour and any browned bits of chicken from the bottom of the skillet. Allow the broth come up to a simmer, at which point it will thicken to a gravy. Remove the skillet from the heat.

  7. Drain the can of diced tomatoes with green chiles well. Dice the cooked chicken. Stir the chicken and tomatoes into the gravy.

  8. After stirring the chicken and tomatoes into the gravy, add the sour cream and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheddar, and stir until combined.

  9. Layer a few handfuls of the tortilla chip strips into the bottom of a 9×13-inch or 3 quart casserole dish. Spoon half of the chicken mixture on top of the chips. Layer more tortilla chip strips on top (about half as much as before), then spoon the remaining chicken mixture on top. Finally, add the remaining 1.5 cups of shredded cheddar.

  10. Bake the casserole in the preheated 375ºF oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the casserole bubbles around the edges. Sprinkle sliced green onions on top after baking, then serve hot.

These are the thick rectangular tortilla chips, like these chips from Mission (I used a generic). Their thick texture makes them ideal for this casserole.


Scroll down for step by step photos!

Two plates with King Ranch Chicken Casserole, a fork digging into one of them.

Step by Step Photos

Pounded chicken breasts seasoned with chili powder

Begin by pounding two boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb. total) to an even thickness, about 3/4 to 1-inch thick. This will help it cook quickly and evenly without drying out. Season the chicken breasts on both sides with about 1 Tbsp chili powder.

Cooked chicken in the skillet

Add 1 Tbsp cooking oil to a large skillet and preheat it over medium. Once hot, swirl to coat the skillet in oil, then add the chicken breasts. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides and cooked through (about 5 minutes per side). While the chicken cooks, dice one yellow onion and one bell pepper. Shred 8 oz. cheddar cheese.

Onion bell pepper and butter in the skillet

Remove the cooked chicken to a clean cutting board to cool. Begin to preheat the oven to 375ºF. Add the diced onion and bell pepper to the skillet along with 2 Tbsp butter. Sauté the onion and bell pepper in the butter over medium heat until the onion are soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).

Flour added to skillet with onion and bell pepper

Add 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour to the skillet and continue to stir and cook over medium heat, for about one minute more, or until the flour begins to coat the bottom of the skillet and turn golden brown.

Chicken broth being poured into the skillet

Add 1 cup chicken broth to the skillet and stir to dissolve the flour and any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Allow the skillet to come up to a simmer, at which point the broth will thicken into a gravy. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Diced chicken and drained tomatoes added to the skillet

Dice the cooked chicken and drain one 10 oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chiles. Add the chicken and tomatoes to the skillet and stir to combine.

Sour cream and cheese added to the skillet

Add 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheddar to the skillet and stir to combine.

Layering tortilla chip strips and chicken mixture in casserole dish

Lay a few handfuls of tortilla chip strips in the bottom of a 9×13-inch or 3 quart casserole dish. Spoon 1/2 of the chicken mixture over the chips (it will not cover in a solid layer).

Second layer of chips and chicken mixture in casserole dish, being covered with cheese

Add a couple more handfuls of chips on top (about half as many as before), then spoon the rest of the chicken mixture over top. Lastly, add the remaining 1.5 cups of shredded cheddar on top.

Sliced green onion being added to the top of the baked King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Bake the King Ranch Chicken Casserole in the preheated 375ºF oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbling around the edges. Sprinkle sliced green onions on top after baking. Serve hot.

The casserole dish next to a plate with a serving of King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Cheeeeeeeeesy chicken and tortillas!

Close up of a plate full of King Ranch Chicken Casserole with a fork stuck in the middle

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Baked Pizza Chicken

One of the coolest things about having been blogging for over ten years is seeing how my cooking style and skills have changed through this experience. One of my first recipes to go viral was my Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken. It was a tasty recipe for sure, but way too much work for current day Beth. […]

The post Baked Pizza Chicken appeared first on Budget Bytes.

One of the coolest things about having been blogging for over ten years is seeing how my cooking style and skills have changed through this experience. One of my first recipes to go viral was my Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken. It was a tasty recipe for sure, but way too much work for current day Beth. 😅 This Baked Pepperoni Chicken is an easier, just as delicious interpretation of pizza-style chicken. It’s perfect for weeknight dinners and holds up in the refrigerator for meal preps. Hopefully you’ll appreciate the lack of breading, stuffing, and frying in this newer version as much as I did.

Close up of Baked Pizza Chicken on a plate with salad and garlic bread, the chicken cut into pieces.

How to Serve Baked Pizza Chicken

I plated my Baked Pizza Chicken with some Homemade Garlic Bread and simple salad of spring mix with light coating of Italian dressing. I like to keep my side dishes simple so that dinner doesn’t get over complicated. Bonus: you can bake the garlic bread in the oven during the last 5 minutes or so that the chicken cooks.

You could also serve your pizza chicken over a bed of pasta with red sauce. 

Another fun way to eat this Baked Pizza Chicken would be to make a sort of chicken sandwich out of it. Put it on a roll with a little extra pizza sauce, maybe some sliced red onion, and treat it like a meatball sandwich!

Is Fresh Mozzarella a Must?

Fresh mozzarella (the type packed in water) definitely works best because it melts so beautifully, but it can be pricey. If you’re lucky enough to live near an Aldi, you can get it for a steal, like I did. If you can’t get fresh mozzarella for a good price the next best is full-fat mozzarella (not packed in water). And as a last resort, you can use part-skim mozzarella. Part-skim is dryer and does not melt as smoothly, but it will work in a pinch.

Can I Add Other Toppings?

Sure! If you want to add more than just pepperoni, I suggest chopping the toppings up in to very small pieces so they kind of get stuck in the cheese and don’t fall off. Red onion would be awesome, as would black olives and maybe some finely diced bell pepper.

Front view of a piece of Baked Pizza Chicken on a plate with salad and garlic bread.

 

Baked Pizza Chicken

This easy Baked Pizza Chicken is the perfect fast and easy weeknight dinner. The chicken cooks quickly and always stays tender and juicy!

  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend ($0.30)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.32)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2/3 lb. each) ($7.64)
  • 1/4 cup pizza sauce ($0.17)
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella ($1.33)
  • 8 slices pepperoni ($0.23)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a small bowl, stir together the Italian seasoning blend, garlic powder, salt, and olive oil.

  2. Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board and cover with a piece of plastic wrap to prevent splatter. Use a mallet or rolling pin to pound the chicken to an even thickness, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut each chicken breast in half to make two equal sized pieces.

  3. Place the chicken breasts in a shallow baking dish or on a baking sheet, making sure they have at least an inch of space around them. Spread the oil and herb mixture over the surface of each piece of chicken.

  4. Bake the chicken in the fully preheated 400ºF oven for 15 minutes. While the chicken in baking, slice the mozzarella.

  5. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven. Spread 1 Tbsp pizza sauce over the surface of each piece. Next top each piece with about 1oz. mozzarella and two slices of pepperoni.

  6. Return the chicken to the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes more, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165ºF. Remove from the oven and serve.

Scroll down to see the step by step photos!

A fork taking a piece of Baked Pizza Chicken from the plate with chicken, garlic bread, and salad.

Step by Step Photos

Italian herb and oil mixture

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend, 1/8 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp salt, and 2 Tbsp olive oil.

Chicken breasts on a cutting board covered with plastic with a rolling pin on the side.

Place two boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2/3 lb. each)on a cutting board and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Use a mallet or rolling pin to pound the chicken to an even thickness, about 3/4-inch thick. This helps the chicken cook quickly and evenly in the oven.

Chicken breasts cut into two pieces

Since 2/3 pound is a LOT of chicken per serving, I always cut my chicken breasts in half. I like to cut on a diagonal to make two pieces that are similar in shape to the original piece.

Chicken coated in herbs and oil in a baking dish.

Place the chicken pieces in a shallow baking dish or baking sheet, making sure there’s about an inch of space all around. Coat the chicken pieces in the Italian herb and oil mixture. Bake the chicken for 15 minutes in the preheated 400ºF oven. While the chicken is baking, slice 4 oz. of fresh mozzarella.

Pizza sauce being spread over the baked chicken pieces.

After 15 minutes, take the chicken out and add about 1 Tbsp pizza sauce to each piece. Spread the sauce over the surface of the chicken.

Mozzarella and pepperoni added to the chicken pieces.

Next, add about 1 oz. fresh mozzarella to each piece of chicken, then finish each with two slices of pepperoni. 

Baked Pizza Chicken with melted mozzarella and an instant read thermometer showing 163 degrees.

Return the chicken to the oven and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes, or until the mozzarella is melted and the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165ºF. Mine was at 163ºF after 5 minutes, so I gave it 1-2 more minutes in the oven. The total cooking time will depend on the size of your chicken pieces and how long the chicken was out of the oven while adding the toppings. 

Two plates with Baked Chicken Pizza, salad, and garlic bread next to a cutting board with more garlic bread.

Then your Baked Pizza Chicken is ready to serve! Dig in and enjoy that juicy chicken, melty mozzarella, flavorful Italian herbs, and spicy pepperoni!

Front view of a piece of Baked Pizza Chicken cut into pieces on a plate.

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