Chicken Spaghetti

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My sister and I argue about which Junior League cookbook first introduced us to this casserole (I stand my ground that it was Louisiana’s spiral-bound River Road Recipes from 1959). What we agree on is that, regardless of where we found it, we’re never letting it go. My mother and sister made chicken spaghetti routinely with its requisite Velveeta when the Market first opened. We still offer a pan most weeks, though we sometimes change the cheese to a blend mozzarella, asiago and fontina, as you’ll find below

Makes one (9- x 13- x 2-inch) casserole / Serves 8 to 10

1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken (about 4 cups cooked, shredded meat)

8 ounces spaghetti

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, chopped

8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 green or red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced

2 jalapeños, seeded and minced

4 celery stalks, chopped

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken broth (reserved from cooking the chicken or low-sodium canned or homemade broth)

1 (14-ounce can) diced tomatoes

1 cup (4 ounces) grated mozzarella cheese

1 cup (4 ounces) grated fontina cheese

1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated asiago cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling on top

1. Rinse the chicken, pat dry and remove any excess skin or fat. Place the chicken in a large pot with enough water to cover by about 3 inches. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until the juices run clear when pierced in the thickest part of the thigh, about 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the broth (reserving 3 cups) and let cool enough to handle. Pull the meat from the chicken in large chunks, discarding the skin and bones.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

3. Lightly grease a 9- by 13- by 2-inch baking dish and set aside.

4. Prepare the spaghetti, cooking a few minutes less than package directions, until al dente. Drain and toss in a colander with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and set aside to continue draining.

5. Melt the butter and remaining olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet until sizzling hot, reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, jalapeños and celery and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes more. Add the flour and reduce heat to low; cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes longer.

6. Slowly stir in the 3 cups of reserved chicken broth, stirring constantly, until the liquid comes to a boil; reduce the heat to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to coat the back of spoon, about 5 minutes.

7. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, asiago, fontina, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper and remove from the heat. Stir until the cheese melts.

8. Add the chicken and spaghetti to the sauce mixture and toss just to blend; do not over mix or the spaghetti will break apart.

9. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake, covered, until bubbling around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, uncover, sprinkle with the Parmesan and cook until golden brown on top, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let sit about 10 minutes before serving warm with extra cheese to sprinkle on top.

Sidebar: In the Kitchen

To make a Velveeta version of Chicken Spaghetti—the original recipe (which many of our customers prefer)—use about 2 1/2 cups Velveeta in place of the mozzarella, fontina and asiago. You’ll end up with a slightly creamier casserole.