This Super Easy Chicken Spaghetti is definitely going to be a favorite at your dinner table. A few pantry staples and some leftover chicken is all you need for this fast, fabulous weeknight fare!
“Chicken Spaghetti” may conjure images of a chicken-Parmesan-inspired recipe: a simple (boring) chicken breast resting atop a mountain of pasta, bathed in marinara.
This hearty and flavorful dish is no chicken spaghetti with red sauce, though. My Chicken Spaghetti is the go-to recipe for a super creamy, super cheesy, quick chicken dish that offers all the comfort of a cozy casserole made right on your stovetop.
I take a little help from some handy pantry items to make a sauce that’s not only delicious but easy to get on the table in about 30-40 minutes. Honestly, waiting for the pasta water to come to a boil will take longer than putting this whole thing together!
While you may not have heard of Chicken Spaghetti before, it’s popular among casserole queens and comfort-food-connoisseurs, partially because it’s such a customizable recipe but also because it’s just so darn good!
It’s a variation on tetrazzini, a classic American dish that usually has turkey and a béchamel or cream sauce (with a splash of sherry, because why not), sprinkled with cheese, and baked in a casserole dish until warm and bubbly.
The basics for a Chicken Spaghetti recipe are similar: cooked pasta mixed with cheese and canned cream soups (infinitely easier than making a butter/cream sauce!), with creative additions that reflect the tastes of its maker.
Signature ingredients can include onions and celery, pimentos, or green peppers, all of which are found in the chicken spaghetti Pioneer Woman makes. Rather than the subtle taste of pimentos, I choose to use canned tomatoes with green chilis, since I always like to spice things up when I can.
Honestly I really AM a fan of veggies, but even after cooking they’re all a little bit crunchy and really compete a bit with the creamy perfection of the overall dish, so I leave them out of my version.
The chicken spaghetti Paula Deen makes has some of the same veggies, plus fresh mushrooms (which I don’t include for the texture reasons I’ve already mentioned), but she also uses angel hair pasta instead of thin spaghetti. While the difference in pasta size is only a small one, the thin spaghetti holds its own a little better, suspended beautifully in the luscious sauce, than the fine strands of angel hair.
I’m pretty sure every warm pasta dish on the planet includes a generous cheese constituent, and that’s definitely the case in this cheesy Chicken Spaghetti recipe.
Many versions include cheddar or Monterey jack or make the chicken spaghetti with cream cheese. The texture of cream cheese in particular changes when it’s heated, though, and regular shredded cheese adds flavor but doesn’t really incorporate as well with all the cream soups going on.
I decided to make a substitute in this dish with everyone’s favorite fool-proof melting companion and make my Chicken Spaghetti with Velveeta.
In my experience, nothing else melts as smoothly or preserves that rich, “velveety” consistency.
Based on these ingredients, you can probably imagine how a traditional Chicken Spaghetti gets put together: begin with a veggie saute while a neighboring pot bubbles away with the pasta; mix all the ingredients in a big bowl, then transfer them to a casserole dish for a warming trip through the oven.
Did you count all those dishes? I don’t know about you, but even those “soft on your hands” dishwashing detergents don’t make me enjoy washing lots of pots and pans after dinner (especially those stubborn casserole dishes that seem to be perpetually soaking in my sink).
My recipe is all made on the stove top, in one pan, which not only makes my Chicken Spaghetti easy but also helps get it on the table quicker. And, repeat after me, “One pot dinner is always a winner!”
Okay, MAYBE you want to add a simple green salad or steamed veggie to really call it a complete meal, but this is definitely going to be a recipe to add to your repertoire.
Your family will be so thankful, you may just get some help with those dishes!
Tomatoes – I like to use a couple of cans of petite diced tomatoes with green chilies or Rotel. Just make sure they’re drained well so you don’t dilute the sauce. Feel free to use a mild or spicy version based on your own taste, of course. No judgment here.
Chicken – Want to make an extra easy Chicken Spaghetti casserole? Use a rotisserie chicken to make the prep time even faster! If you don’t have a rotisserie chicken on hand, though, just simmer 2-3 boneless chicken breasts in a large pan, in well-salted water (to make sure they come out nicely seasoned), while the pasta water is coming to a boil. They’ll be cooked and cooled by the time you’re ready to add them to the pot.
Crispy Crunchy – If you have the time (and inclination to wash an extra pan) and crave a little extra texture in the dish, you can go the casserole route and make an easy crunchy topping. One of my favorite tricks is crushing a bag of seasoned croutons! Just spoon the finished spaghetti into a lightly-greased casserole dish, sprinkle with crushed croutons, and bake under your broiler just until the crumbs start to brown a bit. You can also toss ¾ c. of panko breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and do the same thing.
Pasta – As I’ve already mentioned, this is a great way to use your pantry staples for a quick and amazing dinner. If you’re out of thin spaghetti, there’s no need to make a special trip to the grocery store. You can substitute regular spaghetti, linguini, or fettuccini, and even something small like macaroni will do in a pinch. You can also use whole wheat pasta as a healthier alternative.
Leftovers – This Chicken Spaghetti recipe definitely makes a decent amount, so you can freeze any leftovers. I would recommend putting it in an 8×8” lightly greased casserole dish for freezing. When you’re ready to eat it, thaw it completely, and reheat the dish covered in foil to help retain the moisture. Pasta leftovers can be a little dry, so you might want to drizzle 3 – 4 tablespoons of milk or chicken stock over the top first to make sure it stays nice and creamy.
Source: Adapted from Allrecipes
- Yield: Serves 4
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Thin Spaghetti - 16 Ounces
- Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup - 1 Can
- Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup - 1 Can
- Petite Dice Tomatoes with Green Chile Peppers, Drained - 1 (10 Ounce) Can
- Velveeta ~ Cut inot Cubes - 1 Pound
- Salt - 1/2 Teapsoon
- Black Pepper - 1/4 Teaspoon
- Cooked Chicken~Shredded - 3 Cups
- Milk~Divided - 1/4--1/2 Cup
- In a large pot, cook pasta in well salted water, according to package instructions just until al dente. Drain. Dry out pot to use for the sauce.
- While the pasta drains, add cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, drained tomatoes, Velveeta, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup milk to the dried pasta pot. Cook over medium low heat, stirring often so the sauce doesn't burn, until the Velveeta is melted and sauce is smooth. Add more milk, if needed, to thin the sauce a bit. Add cooked pasta and chicken and combine until evenly coated. Serve.