Many years ago, my sweet mother-in-law gave me a recipe for Make Ahead Chicken Casserole. I tweaked it just a little bit, and have been using it as a base recipe ever since. It’s easy, versatile and everyone loves it. It’s perfect comfort food!
Make Ahead Chicken Casserole
2 cups cooked chicken
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups dry macaroni
2 cups milk
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup shredded cheddar
Combine all but cheese in a large bowl.
(Side note: I don’t usually measure everything precisely for this recipe. The meat is about 1.5 chicken breasts torn up, and I guess that’s about 2 cups. There are probably two cups of vegies in that bag, right? I do use a measuring cup for the pasta, but if there are a few pieces left in the box, they get tossed in, too. I pour milk into the empty soup cans, about an inch from the top, so I can slosh it around and get more of the soup out. And cheese? I just shred a bunch until the top looks sufficiently cheesed. It works for me!)
Spread into a greased 9×13 baking dish. Sprinkle cheese on top.
Enlist the dog to assist with clean-up. Sorry, folks if it makes you cringe to see the dog licking the mixing bowl. I assure you, the bowl was well-cleaned with hot soapy water afterward! Pooka loves to help Mommy cook; licking the bowl is her reward.
Cover dish with foil or lid and refrigerate 6-8 hours. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before putting it in the oven. Heat oven to 350°. Bake uncovered for one hour.
I like to toss this casserole together on days when I know I’ll be busy or too tired to cook later in the day. Add a tossed salad and dinner rolls, and dinner is served! Another great thing about this recipe is how easily you can change it up. Use ham instead of chicken, with peas instead of mixed vegies and Swiss instead of cheddar. Substitute spiral pasta or penne for the elbows. Make it vegetarian by using cream of mushroom or celery soup and subbing mushrooms for the meat. The possibilities are endless! The casserole freezes well, too, after it’s been baked. Hungry Bird appreciates the frozen “Mom meals” I set aside for him in old Cool Whip tubs.
The best thing about this recipe? Every time I make it, I think about Mom G and smile! Love and miss you, Mom G…