Is it just me or does back-to-school time come earlier and earlier each year? And while I can count on sunshine and summer vegetables lingering in the South a few months longer, the mere hint of college-ruled paper and sharpened pencils is enough to launch me into cold weather comfort food mode.
Speaking of comfort food, I can't think anything more satisfying after a busy fall day than coming home to a warm and creamy casserole — like, say, this ooey-gooey buffalo chicken pasta bake.
This rich dish is equally at home feeding a family of four as it is fueling a high school football team. And whether you're headed into a late-night study session or a Saturday tailgate, this recipe will provide plenty of energy to get you through.
My husband is the chief of the "casseroles are just vehicles for hot sauce" tribe, and I'm quite surprised the first bite didn't make his head explode from happiness. I mean, it's cheesy, it's noodle-y, it's chicken-y, and it's orange — his most favorite food color.
But let's be honest here. This is really just a good excuse to eat buffalo chicken wings and dip for dinner, because frankly, who hasn't, at some point or another, wanted buffalo chicken wings and nothing else for dinner? Celery is out and noodles are in, my friends. Buffalo chicken wings, a.k.a America's most viral appetizer, just got a makeover in ooey-gooey casserole form. The only thing left standing between you and hot sauce nirvana is an ice-cold pitcher of draught beer!
Buffalo Chicken Pasta Bake
16 ounces short, hollow noodles such as rigatoni or penne
1 cup whole or 2% milk, plus more as needed
1 cup sour cream, preferably full-fat
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce, preferably Frank’s, plus extra to taste
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese (optional)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9x13-inch casserole dish.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles 1 minute less than package directions, until just under-done. Drain and return to the pot.
Meanwhile, bring the milk to a gentle simmer in a medium sauce pan over moderate heat. Whisk in the sour cream, cream cheese, and buffalo sauce until smooth. Whisk in the monterey jack and blue cheese until melted and well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
Combine the sauce with shredded chicken and the cooked noodles and stir until fully incorporated. (If the mixture seems a bit dry, add 1/4 cup milk as needed.) Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish. Combine the bread crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the casserole.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly and brown on top. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.