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CHICKEN BACON RANCH CASSEROLE

Scrumptious Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole: A Delightful Main Course

Are you looking for a comforting, flavorful dish to satisfy your taste buds? Look no further! This Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole combines browned chicken pieces, crispy bacon, and rigatoni pasta, all enveloped in a creamy ranch-seasoned Alfredo sauce. Topped with melted mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, this casserole is sure to become a family favorite.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin bite-size pieces, or 5 chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) jar Alfredo sauce (or homemade Alfredo sauce)
  • ⅔ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons ranch seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions

1. Preheat and Prepare

  • Preheat the Oven: Set your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius).
  • Prepare the Casserole Dish: Spray a 9×13-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Cook the Pasta

  • Cook the Noodles: Cook the rigatoni according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain well and set aside.

3. Prepare the Bacon and Chicken

  • Cook the Bacon: In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and place it on paper towels to drain, reserving the bacon grease in the skillet.
  • Cook the Chicken: Using the same skillet with the bacon grease, cook the chicken pieces over medium heat. Work in batches, cooking the chicken in a single layer, flipping the pieces until browned on both sides and cooked through. Remove the chicken and set aside.

4. Sauté the Vegetables

  • Cook the Onions and Garlic: Add the finely chopped onions to the skillet, cooking over medium heat until soft and lightly browned on the edges. Lower the heat, add the minced garlic, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

5. Assemble the Casserole

  • Combine Ingredients: In a large bowl, stir together the cooked pasta, chopped bacon (reserving about ¼ cup for topping), cooked chicken, sautéed onions and garlic, Alfredo sauce, sour cream, ranch seasoning, and 1 cup of shredded mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Transfer to Baking Dish: Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  • Top with Cheese: Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and cheddar cheeses on top, along with the reserved bacon.

6. Bake

  • Bake the Casserole: Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is melted and the casserole is heated through, approximately 20-25 minutes.
  • Garnish: If desired, top with chopped fresh parsley before serving.

Tips for the Best Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole

  • Reserve Bacon Grease: Whether you cook the bacon in the skillet or in the oven, make sure to reserve the bacon grease for cooking the chicken, onion, and garlic. This adds extra flavor.
  • Uniform Chicken Pieces: Cut the chicken into thin, bite-size uniform pieces so they cook quickly and evenly in the skillet.
  • Pasta Options: Any medium-size pasta will work for this recipe. Consider using ziti, penne, rotini, or medium shells.
  • Homemade Alfredo Sauce: While this recipe is designed for speed and ease, feel free to make your own Alfredo sauce for a homemade touch.
  • Rotisserie Chicken Shortcut: If you’re short on time, use already-cooked rotisserie chicken. It’s a delicious and convenient option available almost anywhere.
  • Seasoning Adjustments: Season with salt and pepper to taste, but keep in mind that ranch seasoning is already salty. Usually, plenty of fresh ground black pepper is sufficient.
  • Bake Just Enough: Bake the casserole just long enough to melt the cheese and heat it through.
  • Storage Tips: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months in a sturdy freezer container. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can I use a different type of pasta?
A: Yes, you can use any medium-size pasta like ziti, penne, rotini, or medium shells. They all work well with this recipe.

Q: How can I make this casserole ahead of time?
A: You can prepare the casserole up to the point of baking. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, remove from the refrigerator, let it come to room temperature, and then bake as directed.

Q: What can I use instead of Alfredo sauce?
A: If you prefer, you can make a homemade Alfredo sauce. Alternatively, you can use a white sauce or béchamel sauce as a substitute.

Q: How do I reheat leftovers?
A: To reheat, cover the casserole with foil and bake in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven until heated through, about 20-25 minutes. You can also reheat individual portions in the microwave.

Q: Can I add vegetables to this casserole?
A: Absolutely! Feel free to add vegetables like broccoli, spinach, or bell peppers for added nutrition and flavor. Sauté the vegetables before mixing them into the casserole.

Q: Is there a low-fat version of this recipe?
A: You can make a lighter version by using reduced-fat cheese, light sour cream, and a low-fat Alfredo sauce. Additionally, you can use turkey bacon instead of regular bacon.

Q: How do I prevent the casserole from drying out?
A: Ensure the pasta is cooked al dente and the casserole is covered with foil during baking to retain moisture. Also, avoid overbaking.

Conclusion

This Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole is a delightful main course that brings comfort and flavor to your table. With browned chicken, crispy bacon, and a rich ranch-seasoned Alfredo sauce, it’s a dish that’s sure to please everyone. Perfect for busy weeknights or casual gatherings, this casserole is easy to prepare and even easier to enjoy. Give it a try and watch it become a staple in your meal rotation!