Ahhhh comfort food. It’s just sublime. Especially when you really need it.
I know many of my readers are from all over the US and around the globe, but let me tell you about the chaos that has broken out in certain areas of the Southeast this week. I live in Birmingham, Alabama, a major metropolitan area. On Tuesday, the city was expected to get a “light dusting” of snow, and the more southern part of the state was expected to get about 1-2 inches. So naturally, since we here in Bama don’t know how to drive in the snow, nor do we have the equipment (snow chains, snow tires, snow plows, or salt/sand trucks), those areas expected to receive snow cancelled school and business. Well here’s the thing…the prediction was off by about 100 miles. So while everyone who was EXPECTING snow sat in their warm houses, no snow fell. Meanwhile those of us in Birmingham NOT expecting snow, were quite taken aback when white fluffy stuff began to fall from the sky….and kept on falling…and sticking to the ground. The temperature was only 18 that day, and the fall snow became ice within minutes. We were all at work and school because we were not expecting snow. And then schools started letting kids out early, and businesses let their employees go home…ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Approximately 1 million commuters all got out on the roads at the same time, on icy roads, with improper preparations. The state’s few salt/sand trucks were all sitting in the more southern cities, where snow never became an issue. Meanwhile, Birmingham completely shut down. Like…completely. THOUSANDS of people were stuck in the “Winter Gridlock”. They had to abandon their cars and trudge through the snow to shelter. Some had to sleep in their cars overnight. Four thousand students spent the night at their schools, and thousands more people spent the night in their office buildings because they couldn’t get home.
I spent the night at my office. My husband began the normally 20 minute drive home, and nearly 3 hours later he had moved 1 mile. He abandoned his car and walked to his cousin’s house a mile away to get shelter. I know dozens of people who were separated from small children and worried sick all night. It was truly a crisis. There were even some fatalities as a result of wrecks and freezing temperatures. My husband and I made it home about 32 hours after leaving for what we thought would be a normal day of work. Some people are just now making it home, and just now being reunited with family. We are blessed to be safe.
It was definitely a crazy experience and one we will not soon forget. When I was trapped at the office, eating crackers and watching the snow outside, I was seriously craving some COMFORT FOOD. I think pasta is the absolute best comfort food. This casserole has pasta and cheese and pesto and alfredo sauce, and it’s basically the epitome of what I was craving in that office building! This stuff is SO GOOD! One of my favorite pasta dishes ever (and I’ve made lots of great pasta dishes).
- 8 ounces penne pasta
- 3 cups cubed cooked chicken (you could use rotisserie)
- 2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
- 1 1/2 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1/2 can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 jar Alfredo sauce (I accidentally used the whole jar and it was great! So you could do whichever)
- 3/4 cups 2% milk
- 4 ounces prepared pesto
- 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the chicken, cheese blend, spinach, tomatoes, Alfredo sauce, milk and pesto.
- Drain pasta and add to chicken mixture; toss to coat. Transfer to a greased 8-in. square baking dish.
- In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oil; sprinkle over casserole.
- Cover and bake for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly.
If you want to make this a freezer meal, you can freeze it (unbaked) for up to 3 months. When you're ready to bake, let the casserole thaw in refrigerator overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 mins prior to baking. Then cover and bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until bubbly.
Source: Taste of Home