RoTel Cheeseburger Pasta

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You know those days when it’s time to make dinner and you got nothin’? You open the fridge… nothing.  You open the pantry… nothing. You even open the freezer hoping that in some moment of brilliance you made extra of something else and… nothing.  This recipe is a result of one of those days.

It’s like a “Chopped” Challenge – how do you take the odds and ends of what is in your kitchen and make a dinner? The initial prep went something along these lines:  the ground beef was already defrosting in the sink.  I see enough pasta in the pantry for a dinner, and that can of RoTel is calling to me.  Cheese, of course, makes everything better so we can work with that.

The first attempt was okay, not stellar, but I wrote it down and we played with the portions and flavors a bit until we had it – RoTel Cheeseburger Pasta.

And wouldn’t you know it?  It’s become a family favorite!


RoTel Cheeseburger Pasta

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ box linguine, spaghetti, or any pasta
  • 1 can RoTel Tomatoes
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 T chopped pickled jalapeno 
  • handful cilantro, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a pot of salted water up to a boil and cook the pasta until just shy of al dente, about 6-7 minutes.  You want it to have a pretty decent bite to it still, a healthy “chew”, as it will continue to cook in the sauce as it bakes and you don’t want it to become gummy as it bakes.  I like the linguine for this dish, the flat noodles hold the sauce really well.  However, you can use spaghetti, or really any pasta shape you like.  Drain the pasta well and set it aside when it is ready.

Brown the ground beef with the onions and garlic.

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When the veggies begin to soften, add the RoTel tomatoes and continue to cook to thicken and evaporate the extra juices.

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As the meat cooks, melt the butter in a saucepan.  Whisk in the flour to form a paste and then slowly add in the milk, whisking continuously to avoid lumps.

Whisk until the sauce is thickened then add the cheese.  Continue to stir until the cheese is melted into a smooth sauce.

Combine the ground beef, cooked pasta and cheese sauce together – I just remove the beef skillet from the heat and work it all together in the pan.

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Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.  Add the cilantro, if using, and chopped jalapenos. Cilantro is one of those things, right?  You either love it or hate it? I’m firm in the “love” category and think that it adds a little brightness to the dish.  If you don’t care for it, or just don’t have any on hand tonight, simply skip it.  Chopped green onions or chives would be nice here as well.  If you happen to have a spicy can of RoTel tonight, you may skip the chopped jalapenos – this part is totally to your liking.

Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

This is a great place to stop and either chill or freeze.  You can stick this casserole in the fridge to cook within the next 24 hours or so, or let it cool and freeze the dish for future baking.

Bake the casserole for 20 minutes, or until it starts to bubble and brown.  From chilled, you’ll bake the dish for about 40 minutes.

Let the dish sit a few minutes before serving.

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What’s your throw-together dish that’s become a family favorite?


Full Recipe

RoTel Cheeseburger Pasta

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ box linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 can RoTel Tomatoes
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 T chopped pickled jalapeno
  • handful cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease a 9×13 casserole dish.

Cook the pasta until just shy of al dente, about 6 minutes – it will finish cooking when it is baked.

Rinse well in a strainer.

Brown the ground beef with the onions and garlic.

Add the tomatoes.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.

Whisk in the flour.

Slowly add the milk and whisk until thickened.

Add the cheese and stir until melted.

Combine the ground beef, pasta and cheese sauce together.

Add the cilantro and jalapenos.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour mixture into the prepared casserole dish.

**At this point, you can cool down the dish and refrigerate until cooking or freeze for future baking**

Bake for 20 minutes until it starts to bubble and brown.

**From chilled – bake for 40 minutes**

Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken

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I’ll start this post with a warning:  this recipe is not a quick one to prep.  It’s not difficult to put together but it does involve a lot of “chill time” before cooking.  You can, however, prep and freeze the chicken ahead of time for a quick mid-week cook!  I’ve noted in the recipe below the best place to pack up and freeze for future cooking.

Another warning: slightly mushy story about this recipe coming up.

Will and I love to have friends over for dinner.  We love to plan a full dinner from appetizers to dessert, usually having guests contribute parts of the meal, and enjoy some wine and bourbon along the way.

One Friday night mid-June, we had some friends over for dinner.  We had made the butter-stuffed chicken before and thought it was a good dish to prep ahead of time and easily cook for a dinner party. Dinner was delicious and we went outside to enjoy the night and continue conversations.  Everyone was settled and Will brought out a wine bottle to refill glasses as needed.  He looked around, said “Now that everyone has a full glass…”, dropped down to one knee on the deck of our back porch and pulled out what instantly became my most favorite ring ever.

There was nervous laughter on my part, excited exclamations from our friends, that super-cute smile of Will’s and then a very firm “YES!” from me. Champagne was popped and thus began our year of wedding prep and life of marital bliss.

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I’ve said since this day that when we move out of this house, I’m taking with me the board that Will’s knee was touching on June 15, 2012.  We’ll serve Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken for dinner the night the board finds its new home 😉


Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon minced fresh lime zest
  • four boneless skinless chicken breast, 6 to 7 ounces each
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cups panko

Place the onion, poblano, jalapeno, red bell pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano and coriander in a food processor. Pulse everything together until all the veggies are a fine dice.

I love my food processor as it cuts down chopping and mixing time and effort in many situations.  We have both a 3.5- and a 7-cup size and they both get a workout frequently!  Don’t have a food processor handy?  Chop all the veggies into a fine dice from the start – since this is part of the filling inside the chicken roll-up you just want small, fairly equal sizes so that it stuffs and stays inside the chicken well.

Take one tablespoon of the butter and melt it in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute the veggie mixture in the butter, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook the mixture until all the moisture from the veggies evaporates – about 15 minutes or so.  Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool a bit as you move on to the next step.

Mash the cream cheese and remaining 4 tablespoons of butter together. Mix in the cilantro and lime zest.  Stir in the veggie mix then taste to check for seasoning.  Add a little salt and pepper, if needed.  Place the butter in the fridge to chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

While the butter is firming back up, prepare the chicken breasts.  Place one chicken breast inside a resealable plastic bag with just about 1 teaspoon of water inside of it – the water helps the chicken to not stick to the bag as much.  Pound the chicken breast to 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick with the smooth side of a mallet.  You can also use the bottom of a heavy skillet or pan to pound the chicken down.  Repeat this with all four chicken breasts.

Once the butter if firm, divide it into quarters. Place one quarter of the butter in the center of each pounded chicken breast. Fold one end over the filling, tuck the sides of the chicken in, then continue rolling until the filling is covered.  Tightly wrap the stuffed chicken in plastic wrap and repeat the process with the remaining breasts and butter.

Chill the wrapped chicken at least one hour or as long as overnight.  If you are in a little more of a hurry, pop the wrapped chicken into the freezer until just firm.  You want the chicken breasts firm around the filling so that when they cook the chicken stays together without having to secure the meat with toothpicks.  I can never find all those toothpicks after cooking…  😉

Season the flour with salt and pepper.  Unwrap the chicken then dredge the roll-up in the flour.  Dip the roll-up into the egg, then roll in panko, pressing the panko into the chicken to coat it well.  Wrap the breaded chicken in plastic wrap again and chill to set the coating at least one hour, up to three hours.

** This is a great point to freeze any roll-ups that you don’t want to cook the same day **

Heat your oven to 450.

Heat about 1/2-inch of canola or vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  You want the oil to be about 375 degrees.  I don’t like to drag a deep-fry thermometer out so here are a couple ways to check oil temp without one:

  • Stick the handle of a wooden spoon, or use a chopstick, into the oil.  If the oil starts steadily bubbling, the oil is ready for frying.  No bubbles – keep heating.  LOTS of vigorous bubbles – let the oil cool a bit.
  • Drop a 1-inch square of bread in the oil.  If it takes about 60 seconds to brown the oil is at 365.
  • Drop a single kernel of popcorn into the oil. The kernel will pop as the oil reaches 350-360 degrees.

Fry the stuffed chicken, a couple at a time to not overcrowd the pan, until browned on all sides, about 5-6 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a rack set over a baking sheet and continue to fry/brown the rest of the chicken.  Place the rack with all the chicken breasts into the oven.  Roast the chicken until cooked through, about 18-20 minutes.  This is where you do want to grab a meat thermometer – when done, the chicken should register at 150-155.

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Let the chicken rest a couple minutes before slicing and serving so that the stuffing has a chance to settle a bit – if it is too hot when you slice the lovely juices will run out and you’ll end up with a messy, drier chicken breast.

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The stuffing can be changed up several different ways to swap out the flavors.  Simply leave the butter/cream cheese base the same and mix up the veggies – maybe a little drained spinach and feta?  Green bell pepper and mushrooms?  Sweet cherry peppers and olives?  How would you change it up?


Full Recipe

Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon minced fresh lime zest
  • four boneless skinless chicken breast, 6 to 7 ounces each
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cups panko

Place onion, poblano, jalapeno, red bell pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano, and coriander in a food processor.

Process until everything is a fine dice.

Sauté vegetable mixture in 1 T butter over medium-high heat, season with salt and pepper.

Cook until moisture evaporates, about 15 minutes.

Set aside to cool a little.

Mash cream cheese, 4 tablespoons butter, cilantro and lime zest together.

Stir in veggie mix.

Season with salt and pepper.

Chill until firm, about 30 minutes, then quarter.

Pound chicken breast to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick one at a time inside a resealable plastic bag with 1 teaspoon water using the smooth side of a mallet.

Stuff chicken breast by placing a quarter of the filling in the center of each pounded breast.

Fold the end over the filling tucking the sides then continue rolling until the filling is covered.

Tightly wrap the stuffed breasts in plastic wrap and repeat stuffing and wrapping with remaining breasts.

Chill breasts at least one hour or as long as overnight, or freeze just until firm.

Season the flour with salt and pepper.

Dredge the chicken in seasoned flour, then dip into egg, then roll in panko, pressing to coat.

Wrap the breaded breasts in plastic wrap and chill to set the coating at least one hour or up to three hours

**Freeze any wrapped chicken breasts you do not wish to cook today**

Heat oven to 450.

Fry the stuffed breasts in ½ inch of canola oil heated to 375°, until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes.

After browning, transfer breasts to a rack set over a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Roast stuffed breasts until an instant read thermometer inserted into the chicken registers 155°, 18-20 minutes.

Freezer Meal: Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies

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I love to have ready-to-go meals in the freezer for a few reasons: they are easy to share with friends and family, they are great food gifts when someone needs a night or two free from dinner planning and prepping, and there is always a time or two when you just want to grab something out of the freezer, warm it up and relax for the night.  These Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies are perfect for all of these reasons.

Chicken Pot Pie is such a classic comfort food.  The crust, the veggies, the gravy… it all just makes for a warm, tummy-filling dinner.  This recipe makes 6 mini CPPs – and while they may look small, one CPP is a pretty filling dinner!  Will and I are pretty adamant about the double-crust on a good CPP so these have a layer of premade pie dough on both the bottom and top.   You can be fancy and make your own pie dough for these… but if I am looking for a quick, easy freezer meal I’m going to reach in the cold case for the premade version.

Plan ahead and pick up 6-7 mini aluminum loaf pans when you plan on making this recipe.  I find them in the baking aisle with all the other disposable aluminum baking pans.  These also add to the no-fuss, individualized gift-giving option of the CPP – who wants to worry about giving/getting back a dish?! 😉  I’ve also easily doubled this recipe and made up to 15 CPPs to freeze at a time.  Heads up if you double – I usually feel that the gravy doesn’t thicken as much as I like it to in the doubled version and add a little cornstarch slurry as it cooks to help it out.  We’ll talk about that more down in the recipe.

Did a new neighbor just move in? Do you have a friend with a busy week that could use a go-to dinner? Try these Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies out and share!  I won’t tell though if you make a batch just for your own freezer… 🙂


Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies

 Yield: six pot pies per recipe

  • 1 ½ -2 lbs. chicken – breast, thigh, tenders – boneless and diced
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 48 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/3 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 1/3 cup celery, diced
  • 1 shallot or onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 15 oz. box refrigerated pie crust (two pie crusts)
  • Disposable aluminum mini loaf pans (at least 6 per recipe)

Remove the pie crusts from their box and set on the the counter to warm to room temperature.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  If I am making one recipe, I tend to use chicken tenders or breasts, whichever is on sale at the store when I shop for groceries.  If I am doubling the recipe, I’ll grab one package of white meat and a package of chicken thighs.  Thighs are incredibly tasty, and inexpensive, and they work well in this dish.  Use whatever you like or have on hand!

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Brown the chicken until cooked through, about 7-8 minutes – work in batches if you are doubling the recipe so that you don’t crowd and cool the pan.  Remove the cooked chicken to a plate and set aside.

Melt the butter in the now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery and shallot or onion.  Don’t forget when you are chopping up your celery:  there is a ton of great flavor in the leaves of the celery stalks.  Use the bright green, tender leaves in the center of your bunch (on the left of the picture below) and avoid the darker, larger leaves on the outside (top-right of the picture below) for best taste.

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Stir occasionally and cook the veggies until lightly browned and softened.

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Add the flour to the veggies and whisk for about 1 minute, making a light roux.

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Add the broth and milk and whisk until it thickens, about 5 minutes or so.  Remove from heat.

This is where we need to talk about the cornstarch slurry.  As you can see from the picture above, when I make a double batch of these CPPs, as was the case in these photos, I start the gravy in a separate pot.  This is just because in a double batch there are a TON of veggies to incorporate.  It does take longer to thicken in a double batch and in this instance it wasn’t getting as thick as I liked.  Think about what you want – the sauce will thicken a little as it cools, but you want a sort of biscuits-and-gravy, custardy consistency to this so that it is scoopable to place into the pie crusts and so that it freezes well.  As the gravy was cooking, I ended up adding a slurry of about 1/4 cup of cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water.  That definitely helped to get things going!

Add the cooked chicken (and veggies if using a separate pot to make the gravy) to the thickened gravy.  Taste and adjust your seasoning if needed.  Set this aside or in the fridge to cool completely.  I have even made the CPP filling the night before and let the whole batch chill in the fridge overnight until ready to scoop into CPPs.  (I know you see peas in that picture below… don’t worry, they are coming.  My picture-taking timing was a little off here!)

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Spray each mini aluminum loaf pan with a nonstick cooking spray.  **THIS IS IMPORTANT!**

Unwrap one pie crust and roll it out on a flour dusted counter. Using the mini loaf pan as a guide/template, cut a bottom layer of dough for each mini loaf pan.  Place it in the bottom of each mini loaf pan.

Unwrap the other pie crust, unroll it onto your floured counter, and cut a top crust for each mini loaf pan.   Cut a few slits into each top crust to vent the crust. At this point, I sometimes get a little creative with the dough scraps.  I use them to cover the top, leaving little vents here and there where the dough scraps don’t exactly meet up.  You could also cut the dough into strips and make a weaving pattern across the top ala a dessert pie if you wanted to be super fancy.  You do you when it comes to CPP top crusts.

Grab the filling mixture from it’s chilling location and stir in the frozen peas.  Spoon the filling evenly into each mini loaf pan on top of the bottom layer of dough. Top each loaf with a pie crust – remembering to have some slits or places for steam to escape when baking.

From here, it’s either cook or freeze!

To cook now: 

Brush the top crust with an egg wash (whisk one egg with about a tablespoon of water in a small bowl). Place on a sheet tray and in a 400 degree oven, covered with foil, for about 20 minutes, then uncover and bake another 20-30 until crusts are golden brown.  Let sit a few minutes before serving.

To freeze: 

Wrap each CPP well with plastic wrap and aluminum foil.  I like to then put two CPPs in a gallon freezer bag or vacuum storage bag and seal them up in pairs.

Freeze up to 2 months.

To cook from frozen:

No need to thaw out the CPP!  Unwrap the pot pies and place on a sheet pan.  Brush the top of the frozen CPP with egg wash (whisk one egg with about a tablespoon of water in a small bowl) and replace just the foil on top of the CPP.  Cook at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.  Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.  Let the pies sit a few minutes before serving.

Want a handy tag for printing the cooking instructions?  Click here!

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What’s your favorite freezer meal?  Let me know what you like and how these super delicious Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies work out for you!


Full Recipe

Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies

  • 1 ½ -2 lbs. chicken – breast, thigh, tenders – boneless and diced
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 48 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/3 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 1/3 cup celery, diced
  • 1 shallot or onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 15 oz. box refrigerated pie crust (two pie crusts)
  • Disposable aluminum mini loaf pans – at least 6 per recipe

Remove pie crusts from box and set on counter to thaw/warm to room temp.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Brown the chicken until cooked through, about 7-8 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Melt the butter in the empty Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add the carrots, celery, and shallot/onion.

Stir occasionally and cook until lightly browned.

Add the flour to the vegetables and whisk for 1 minute.

Add the broth and milk and whisk until it thickens, about 5 minutes or so.

Remove from heat.

Add the chicken to the sauce, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.

Cover and refrigerate until completely cooled.

Spray each mini loaf pan with cooking spray.

Unwrap one pie crust, unroll it on a flour dusted counter.

Cut a bottom crust for each loaf pan, place in the bottom of each mini loaf pan.

Unwrap the second pie crust. Cut a top crust, or use the scraps, for each mini loaf pan.

Cut 3 steam vents in each top crust.

Remove the vegetable/sauce mixture from the refrigerator. Uncover the bowl and mix in the frozen peas.

Spoon the mixture into 6 mini loaf tins evenly.

Top each with a pie crust.

 

Wrap well in plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

Freeze up to 2 months.

 

To cook from frozen:

Unwrap the pot pies and place on a sheet pan.  Brush the top of the frozen pot pie with egg wash and replace just the foil on top of the CPP.  Cook at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.  Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.  Let the pies sit a few minutes before serving.