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Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake CARLA HALL

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Carla’s Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake is going to be an instant favorite!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground chicken
3/4 cup store-bought pesto
1/2 pound macaroni noodles (cooked 2-3 minutes less than package directions)
2-3 slices day-old sliced white bread (1/2 cup total)
6 tablespoons butter (divided)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (grated)
1 cup Monterey Jack (shredded)
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Adjust the oven rack to the top rack of the oven. Preheat the broiler. Grease a 9×13-inch casserole dish with 1 tablespoon of butter.
Heat a large saute pan with olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, breaking up with the back of a wooden spoon, until browned and crumbled, about 7-9 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with the pesto sauce.
For the Cheese Sauce:
Meanwhile in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 5 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking vigorously, until combined and there are no lumps. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the cheeses, and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Remove the cheese sauce to a large bowl, add the ground chicken as well as the cooked pesto pasta and toss to combine. Remove to the casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs. Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until golden brown and bubbling on top. Serve.
For the Homemade Breadcrumbs: Place stale white bread in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. If you have no stale bread, toast your bread before placing in the food processor.
Tip: Assemble the pasta bake the day before then bake right before dinner! Perfect to take to a potluck.

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