How should I make this chicken pasta bake?
December 9, 2016 10:37 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to make an individually portioned, freezer-friendly pasta bake with shredded chicken but am struggling to work out the steps. I'm a truly clueless cook especially when it comes to meat and freezing stuff-- please help!

So I'm following this Mushroom Marsala Pasta Bake recipe, but I want to add shredded chicken to it (yes, it must be shredded-- not cubed or anything else). And it will all be destined for the freezer, in individual-size foil pans.

My intuition tells me that it'll taste better if I freeze it unbaked, and wait to bake when I'm ready to eat. Is that right? Then, what's the best way to prepare the chicken? I usually make chicken in the pressure cooker while making stew or stock (i.e. with lots of liquid) so in this case I would just cover the chicken with some stock and maybe marsala. Or should I just make a regular chicken marsala recipe on the stove and then shred that then combine with the cooked pasta?
posted by acidic to Food & Drink (4 answers total)
I'd use the first recipe, slightly undercook the pasta, and freeze it unbaked. I'd also make sure that all of the chicken is "submerged" (i.e., not exposed to air) to keep it from getting freezer burned.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:50 AM on December 9, 2016

Best answer: I do not love frozen-unbaked pasta dishes. When I make casseroles like this, I soak (not cook) the pasta in tap-hot water for 15-20 minutes before adding to the dish, and I cook the chicken to maybe medium-med rare. (I think chicken cooked in a pressure cooker under water rather than suspended over it is gross, and chicken overcooked in the PC is basically dental floss, so I mean seriously undercook it - you want it releasing liquid when it bakes.) Then assemble and bake and cool and freeze. The flavors meld (so you're getting "better the next day" flavor when you reheat), and the pasta has a fighting chance of making it to the table with some texture left.

The bits of anything that stick out are prone to getting really gross in the freezer and reheating, so in this case I might spritz olive oil over the top of the cooled casserole and then press parchment down firmly to stick. Or make a cheese cap and then parchment, before wrapping and freezing.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:03 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I suggest buying a rotisserie chicken and just take meat off of that. I would also bake it and then freeze it. I have a dish similar to this (not baked, but still) and it freezes and reheats very well, without doing anything special. When reheating, I see no reason why you couldn't add a splash of chicken broth to add moisture if it's needed.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:05 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I agree with Autumnheart - I'd definitely bake it first and then freeze it, at least for the first batch. If it works, then all you have to do is defrost and heat each serving, rather than worrying about doneness of chicken, etc., every night. Pasta likes to slurp up liquid in the freezer, so I actually think baking first (so it's fairly dry) and then freezing will give a better result than freezing it with more liquid, where the pasta might absorb the uncooked sauce and get grainy/weirdly textured. Add chicken broth when reheating, as Autumnheart said, if it's too dry. Pack well (airtight containers, etc.) so you don't get freezer burn.

If the first batch doesn't work out to your liking, try differently next time, but I think the much greater amount of work/oven time for baking it all in one go and being able to just microwave portions outweighs the risk of a batch you don't like. But I'm lazy :)
posted by bananacabana at 3:23 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

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