Made with chicken cooked in broth, celery, onions, and chopped pimentos from a jar, this creamy Chicken Noodle Casserole completely trumps the tuna version my mother fed me as a child. She used canned tuna, spaghetti, peas, and cream of something soup.
Granted, I’m sure it was quick and easy, but I wish she had made this Chicken Noodle Casserole instead.
My Chicken Noodle Casserole is super creamy, thanks to a sauce I made from stock thickened with beurre manie (butter and flour) and sour cream. I finished the casserole with a blanket of melted cheddar on top, wide egg noodles underneath, and moist chunks of chicken throughout. It is impossible to stop eating it.
All of this flavor and gustatory satisfaction, without a can of soup in sight.
CHICKEN NOODLE CASSEROLE WITHOUT CANNED SOUP
Why did I wait so long to make a noodle casserole? To be honest, I was more than a little turned off by canned soup (MSG, too much sodium, not very fresh tasting). In this recipe, I was determined to make it easy-ish—not instant, but not overly complicated either—without a can of soup.
I poached two chicken breast halves in stock for extra flavor, and while the chicken was cooling, I added diced onions and celery (more flavor) and simmered them in the stock.
Instead of dragging out another pot to make a roux, I thickened the stock with a mixture of butter and flour—an old French trick called beurre manie, used to thicken broths. It comes in handy when you don’t want to make a roux. No canned soup needed.
SAVE TIME: USE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN
Yes, you can use rotisserie chicken or use leftover chicken to make the casserole. You will need two to three cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces. Skip step two in the recipe and cook the onion and celery (step five) in three cups of good quality broth.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH CHICKEN NOODLE CASSEROLE?
This casserole is so rich that something green makes the perfect pairing.
- Try any vegetable side dish such as glazed carrots with a hefty squeeze of lemon and some chopped parsley, steam-fried mixed vegetables, or sautéed spinach.
- If you’re craving something crunchy, make a green salad or a romaine and kale salad tossed with vinaigrette.
- To keep it simple, steamed broccoli or green beans would also do the trick.
STORING AND FREEZING CHICKEN NOODLE CASSEROLE
The casserole can be assembled and refrigerated for up to three days before heating and serving. You will need to bake it longer—for 35 to 40 minutes—to bring it to temperature. Cover it loosely with foil for the first 20 minutes. If it looks dry, sprinkle it with a few tablespoons of milk.
It can also be frozen for up to three months: Cool the casserole completely and cover with a layer of plastic wrap and then foil. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Leftovers will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator.
HERE ARE MORE GREAT COMFORT FOOD CASSEROLES
Chicken Noodle Casserole Recipe
To substitute rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken: Use 2 to 3 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces. Skip step 2 in the recipe and cook the onion and celery (step 5) in 3 cups of good quality broth.
- 2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken breast
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 4 black peppercorns
- 3 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 parsley sprigs, divided
- 12 ounces extra-wide egg noodles
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- Pinch of ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 (4-ounce) jar chopped pimentos, drained
- 2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 Preheat oven and prepare the baking dish: Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Brush or spray a 4-quart (9x13-inch) shallow baking dish with oil.
2 Cook the chicken: In a wide, deep saucepan, place the chicken breasts skin side down, and add the peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon salt, bay leaf, and 1 parsley sprig. Pour the stock over the chicken (the breasts should be covered; if not, add enough water to cover by 1/2-inch).
Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat. (Bubbles should appear around the edges of the pot, but not in the center.)
Adjust the heat, if needed, to maintain a low simmer, and cook the chicken, skimming the foam off the top with a spoon as necessary, for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165°F. With tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate to cool.
When cool, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. Discard the skin and bones.
3 While the chicken cooks, boil the noodles: Fill a large pot with water, add the remaining 3 teaspoons of salt and bring it to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes fewer than the package directions indicate. (This prevents the noodles from becoming overcooked when baked in the casserole.) Shut off the burner, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. In the end, you will add the finished sauce to the pot of noodles.
4 Make the beurre manie: In a small bowl, stir the softened butter and flour together until well combined. It will look a little like paste.
5 Cook the vegetables and make the sauce: Pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. You will use it make the sauce. Discard the solids. Measure 3 cups of stock and return it back to the saucepan. (Freeze any leftover stock and save it for another use.)
Add the onion, celery, and pepper to the saucepan with the stock, and bring the stock to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables soften.
A few tablespoons at a time, whisk in the beurre manie until the clumps melt into the stock and the stock thickens slightly. Bring the sauce to a boil while whisking constantly for about 2 minutes to cook the flour. Whisk in the milk and sour cream.
The sauce should look like cream soup; it is not as thick as béchamel. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like.
6 Assemble the casserole: Pour the sauce over the noodles and stir to coat. Add the shredded chicken and drained pimentos. Transfer to the baking dish and top with the grated cheese.
7 Bake and serve the casserole: Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and the cheese melts. If you like a slightly crunchy top, run the casserole under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is golden. If desired, chop the remaining sprig of parsley and sprinkle it over the top.
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