Chicken Parm & Ravioli Casserole

I love making complex dishes. Give me a the homemade bread pudding recipe. I'll make that pie crust from scratch. But every now and again, I want the easy, "toss that crap in a pan and let it bake" kinda meal.

I'm a sucker for those during busy times, like those lovely weeks where I both leave and return home in the dark. No, I'm not a part-time vampire, but sometimes it's just the way things go. It's those times when cheap burritos lightly whisper to me from the freezer. I get home, my stomach is growling, and I succumb to imperfect meal decisions to try and fill that bottomless pit I call my stomach. Hunger is a powerful force, my friends.


Of course, my best bet is to be prepared by having some leftovers tucked away. But we all know how ideal circumstances are - few and far between. Sometimes, you've got what you've got. I keep some quick prep items around, including those burritos I mentioned (and I have to say, some of the less cheap ones are pretty damn good) and on occasion, frozen ravioli. Let's face it, ravioli is not a quick item to make. Between making the pasta dough from scratch and filling those bad boys, we are not looking at something that can be made in an hour, start to finish. I'm Greek, not Italian.

On one particular night, I wanted noodles but not just a bowl of pasta and sauce. I craved something different. After jump starting the brain engine, the gears started turning and I decided on a new kind of casserole.

The beauty of frozen ravioli is that when all that stuffing is in the middle already, you're halfway through a lasagna. Pasta, cheese, and meat make up the main layers, so all I needed to finish the concept off with frozen 'oli is protein. And that's where chicken parm comes into play.

As one of my favorite Italian dishes, chicken (and eggplant) parmesan make a great meal. I breaded both sides of some chicken and pan fried it in avocado oil to get that breading crispy. I skipped the egg wash for this recipe, though for a thicker bread coating I recommend it.


The more bread, the more there is to get mushy. I wound up with a nice, thin layer of breading.


I put some pasta sauce (yes, from a jar!) in a casserole dish then tossed in some frozen ravioli and sliced mushrooms to keep things moving. Mushrooms tend to fit seamlessly into any dish with pasta. As a mushroom fan, I can state with certainty that is an opinion statement more so than a factual one, but as ruler of this blog I will allow it.


I followed that up with a layer of chicken. I didn't feel the need to cube it for this; being that I was planning on slicing the "lasagna" anyway and as these were chicken breasts, cutting would be easy.


After repeating the layers again, using up the rest of the chicken, I then topped it off with some more sauce and shredded cheese. I didn't wind up going through the whole jar of sauce, as I knew I could always heat some up later and add it to individual portions, I wanted more of a nice, thick lasagna than a tomato soup with ravioli in it.


There isn't anything quite like the smell of warm marinara sauce and melted cheese fresh out of the oven. Yum.


I was very happy with the results of this one. In addition to being the lazy man's dream meal in terms of effort, it was tasty and fed me for several days. That all-in-one ravioli ingredient saved me a lot of work and still kept this feeling like lasagna. Homemade marinara sauce is my preference, and as it really isn't challenging, I will up the stakes next time and make that. But for an easy dinner, this was a good deal. It's a win for frozen food, folks.

Chicken Parm & Ravioli Casserole Recipe

Ingredients:

2 pounds chicken breast
1 cup bread crumbs
2-3 tablespoons avocado oil, for frying chicken
Frozen ravioli (approximately 1/2 of a 24 ounces package)
1 jar marinara sauce
1/2 cup fresh sliced mushrooms

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Dip chicken breast in bread crumbs and fry on medium heat in a large skillet until cooked throughout. Use egg wash for breading if desired. Add a thin layer of sauce to a medium sized casserole dish. Add a layer of ravioli, then mushrooms, and then top with chicken. Repeat sauce, ravioli, mushroom, and chicken until all of the chicken is used, then top with one final layer of ravioli. Bake for 25-30 minutes,

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