Make this cheesy chicken noodle casserole tonight, then store the ample leftovers for a healthy, homemade meal your family can enjoy anytime.
1 1/2 375-g pkgs broad egg noodles, (about 500 g)
1 tbsp olive oil, or vegetable oil
3 cups thickly sliced fresh mushrooms
750 g skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-in. chunks (about 4 breasts)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 250-g pkg cream cheese, cut into bits
4 cups baby spinach leaves, rinsed
3/4 cup grated Parmesan, divided
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp crumbled dried thyme
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/4 cup dry or fresh bread crumbs
Grease two 8 or 9 in (20 or 23 cm) square baking pans.
Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until nearly tender. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes or until the mushrooms have released their liquid and it has mostly cooked away. Add the chicken and continue to cook, stirring often, until the chicken is opaque — about 5 minutes. Remove chicken and mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
In the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Blend in the flour, then stir in the milk. Bring to a boil, stirring almost constantly, and cook just until the sauce bubbles and begins to thicken. Stir in the cream cheese and continue cooking until it has blended into the sauce. Add the spinach leaves and cook for a minute or two until the spinach has wilted, then remove sauce from heat. Stir in 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) of the Parmesan cheese, the salt, pepper and thyme.
Return the chicken mixture and any accumulated juices to the pot, along with the cooked noodles, and stir until everything is evenly mixed. Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese and spoon into the two baking dishes. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining Parmesan cheese and the bread crumbs.
If you're baking immediately, place in the oven at 375°F (190°C) for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through.
To freeze, let cool to room temperature, then wrap tightly in foil, label and stash in the freezer. To serve, defrost completely in the refrigerator and bake as above until heated through.
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