How To Make Easy, Family-Friendly Chicken Spaghetti

published Oct 22, 2019
Chicken Spaghetti

Here’s our version of chicken spaghetti that requires no creamed soups but still delivers on big flavors the whole family will love.

Serves6 to 8

Prep10 minutes

Cook50 minutes to 55 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Chicken spaghetti is a uniquely American casserole that is the epitome of comfort food: tender noodles and shredded chicken blanketed in a creamy, cheesy sauce. It’s historically made with canned cream soups and some kind of vegetable like tomatoes or bell peppers, but the one defining hallmark of chicken spaghetti is breaking up the spaghetti into small pieces before it’s cooked.

Here’s our version of chicken spaghetti that requires no creamed soups but still delivers on big flavors the whole family will love.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Cutting Out the Cream Soups

Canned cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soups are the foundation of a lot of chicken spaghetti recipes, but it’s really easy to make your own version instead. Cook some flour in melted butter, add some milk, and cook until thick and creamy. Adding lots of shredded sharp cheddar cheese turns it into a wonderful cheese sauce that coats every single strand of spaghetti.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Cheating with the Chicken

There are some chicken spaghettis that start with actually poaching and boiling a whole chicken, then use that flavorful liquid to cook the spaghetti, but our weeknight-friendly version calls for using precooked chicken instead. Pick up a rotisserie chicken — you don’t need all the meat, just the breasts, so save the legs for another meal. Or roast up some extra chicken the next time it’s on the dinner menu and save it to make this casserole quicker to put together.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Skipping the Casserole Dish

While you can certainly transfer the chicken spaghetti into a casserole dish before it goes into the oven, it’s easier to make the sauce in a Dutch oven or oven-safe pot, toss in the spaghetti, and bake in there instead. Take the pot straight from oven to table and know that you’ve saved some dish-washing time in the end.

Customizing Chicken Spaghetti

This version of chicken spaghetti has diced bell peppers for sweetness and canned tomatoes for pops of brightness, but make it your own and feel free to spice it up with tomatoes with chiles or a pinch of red pepper flakes. Try different cheeses, or add some dried thyme or oregano if you’d like. You can’t go wrong with chicken spaghetti when you want a comforting pasta dish the whole family will clamor for.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn
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Here’s our version of chicken spaghetti that requires no creamed soups but still delivers on big flavors the whole family will love.

Chicken Spaghetti

Here’s our version of chicken spaghetti that requires no creamed soups but still delivers on big flavors the whole family will love.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes to 55 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    medium red or green bell pepper

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 3 cups

    shredded sharp cheddar cheese (12 ounces), preferably white

  • 1 (14-ounce) can

    diced tomatoes or tomatoes with green chiles

  • 1 pound

    dried spaghetti

  • Breast meat from 1 rotisserie chicken, or about 4 cups shredded, cooked chicken (1 1/4 pounds)

  • 4 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water and seasoning

  • 1/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1 cup

    low-sodium chicken broth

Equipment

  • Large pot

  • Dutch oven or large oven-safe pot

  • Chef’s knife and cutting board

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Wooden spoon

  • Fine-mesh strainer

  • Colander

Instructions

  1. Boil a large pot of water and heat the oven to 375ºF. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375ºF. Prepare the vegetables and cheese.

  2. Prepare the vegetables, cheese, and tomatoes. Dice 1 bell pepper, mince 3 garlic cloves, and place both in a medium bowl. Dice 1 onion. Shred the cheddar cheese if needed until you have 3 cups. Drain the can of tomatoes into a fine-mesh strainer, rinse under cold water, and set aside to drain again.

  3. Cook and drain the pasta. Break 1 pound spaghetti into 2-inch pieces and add to the boiling water. Cook according to package directions until al dente, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken and start the sauce.

  4. Shred the chicken. If using rotisserie chicken, shred the breast meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones; set aside.

  5. Sauté the aromatics. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large Dutch oven or oven-safe pot over medium heat. Add the onion, season with 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and cook until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the bell pepper and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

  6. Make the sauce. Add 1/4 cup flour and cook until the flour films the bottom of the pot, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add 2 cups whole or 2% milk, 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth, and the remaining 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot, until simmering and thickened, about 4 minutes.

  7. Add the cheese, tomatoes, chicken, and spaghetti. Stir in 2 cups of the cheese until melted. Remove from the heat. Stir in the drained tomatoes, chicken, and spaghetti until evenly combined. Taste and season with salt as needed.

  8. Bake with more cheese on top. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheese on top. Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes. For a browned top, turn the oven on to broil and broil until the cheese is browned in spots, 4 to 6 minutes.

  9. Cool 5 minutes before serving. Let the casserole cool 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Assemble the whole casserole but do not bake. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate up to 1 day. Let the casserole sit out at room temperature while the oven heats. Bake uncovered according to directions, adding 10 to 15 minutes to the bake time.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.