Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake

Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake

I had visitors over for dinner the last Friday and I needed to whip something quick and easy that would serve 4 adults and 4 kids. This chicken pasta bake with spinach and other goodies was my solution to the problem. I was inspired by a pasta bake I ate at a local cafe which contained olives chicken and chorizo; it looked delicious but featured cherry tomatoes. Given that I have decided to avoid eating tomatos, capsicums and potatoes because (through correlation) I get eczma on my hands, I thought I’d come up with something similar that I could enjoy aswell; albeit by easily picking out certain aforementioned ingredients. I also liked the idea of not having to boil or cook the dried pasta first so this is my first time at attempting what I consider a true pasta bake wherby the dried pasta is actually cooked by baking. Another bonus of this recipe is the lack of cheese, I like cheese, in fact I love cheese, but on this particular night I had no cheese in the fridge and i am trying to cut down on my dairy intake and eat a bit healthier. That is right folks, this is pasta bake recipe that contains no cheese yet my kids and my partner enjoyed (and I assume my guests did too – hard to tell though with the guests’ kids).


Some of the ingredients in the recipe can easily be substituted for others.

chicken spinach pasta bake ingredients
Selection of Chicken Spinach Pasta Bake Ingredients

Instead of marinating the chicken in smoked paprika, just use a diced up chorizo instead to give the recipe that delicious smokey flavour.

I used chicken thighs, but any part of the chicken can be used. I find the bonus with using chicken thighs is that I can keep the bones and make a great bone broth or chicken stock. However, if time is not on your side or you cannot be bothered, using store bought chicken stock or buying chicken frames (or carcasses) and making stock or bone broth from that is absolutely fine.


deboned chicken thighs
Deboned Chicken Thighs
marinated chicken thigh meat
Smoke Paprika Marinated Chicken Thigh Meat

I used a red capsicum, mainly to add a pop of red to the dish which makes it more appetising to the eye. However, any color capsicum or bell pepper can be used. If you’re feeeling really adventurous why not try a large sweet chilli like a ‘Big Banana’ chilli – just discard the seeds if your diners or yourself only like a mild chilli kick. (Of course, I kept the capsicum pieces large so i could pick them out as I am currently limiting my intake of deadly nightshades).

Although I am avoiding tomatoes, there is absolutely no reason why you could not use cherry tomatoes in this pasta bake, just cut in half and add them in before popping the dish in the oven.


chicken spinach pasta bake before oven
Chicken Spinach Pasta Bake Ready to Enter the Oven

Fresh chopped spinach is always going to be considered better for you however, having frozen clumps of chopped spinach ready to go is so convienient. Just make sure that you defrost and drain the frozen spinach before adding to the pasta bake after being in the oven for 30 minutes. Of course, it almost goes without saying, but it is also perfectly okay to used defrosted and drained frozen spinach leaves; if using this do not forget to chop it up finely and leave to drain for at least 10 minutes after chopping. If you are wondering why draining the frozen spinach has been mentioned a lot here, well, if you forget to, and add the waterlogged spinahc to your pasta bake, you may find you end up with a rather bland tasting meal. Just remember to drain to save yourself from disappointment.

If you do not have saffron, it is fine to leave it out, I like it because it gives a nice subtle flavour and awesome colour to the sauce of this dish but the result is just as delicious without it – I consider the saffron a nonessential but nice touch to this recipe.


chicken spinach pasta bake out of oven
Chicken Spinach Pasta Bake after 30 minutes Cook Time

Another step that is good to remember to do is to drain your stock or bone broth. It is not the end of the world but it can be a little unpleasant to bite into a nice forkful of pasta bake only to get a overpowering burst of ginger in your mouth or experience biting through a chewy and inedible bay leaf. Best to remember to drain that stock before using it in this recipe. If you do not have a strainer, sieve, or colander to easily strain your stock or bone broth, try using a slotted spoon or tablespoon to scoop up the big bits. Another way to strain it is to use a pot lid to catch the solids as you pour the stock into another pot or container – although be very careful of the liquid and steam if you choose to strain the stock or bone broth this way as it can be very hot.

Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake

Serves 6

6 chicken thighs, with bones
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 cm slice ginger
pinch saffron
500g dried penne pasta
30 black olives
1 red capsicum, chopped
handful basil leaves
300g chopped spinach (or 10 portions of frozen chopped spinach)
salt and pepper
Remove chicken meat from the bones. Discard the chicken skin but retain the bones.
Cut chicken into large chunks. Place chicken into a bowl and marinade with olive oil, smoked paprika and 1 clove of crushed garlic.
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
Add chicken bones to a saucepan. Add 4.5 cups of water, 1 clove of bruised garlic, ginger, bay leaf and salt and pepper.
Bring to the boil, skim off any scum that develops. Boil for at least 30 minutes.
Remove bones and solids then add 1 clove of finely chopped garlic and the saffron.
Boil for 2 minutes, stirring.
In a large oven proof dish, add the dried pasta.
Add the garlic and saffron infused chicken stock to the pasta, mix around to make sure the pasta does not stick together.
Add olives, capsicum, marinated chicken and torn basil leaves to the pasta and stock – mix well to combine.
Place into oven and bake covered for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven, add chopped spinach, salt and pepper and stir well to combine.
Return to the oven uncovered for 30 minutes or until the the pasta is cooked and the top is lightly browned and crispy.
Serve with additional fresh basil.
Mel Crafting

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