This quick and easy dinner idea is great for all year round. Cheesy chicken bacon ranch casserole is full of pasta and even kids love it!
I don’t know if there’s anything better than pasta and sauce. It’s such a quick and easy dinner and I’ll tell you a secret, I didn’t even cook the chicken. I used the chicken I had leftover in my freezer. I cook up my own Tender Slow Cooker Whole Chicken, let everything cool, shred it and then use a Food Saver so I can store it in the freezer. It’s the only way to keep it super fresh so I can pull out cooked meat at any time. Just watch for a sale on whole chickens at Walmart and grab a few. It’s seriously such a time saver!
How to Make a Cream Sauce
We get a lot of readers writing in that they feel overwhelmed with the idea of making a cream sauce. But don’t worry, we will help you out!
Cream sauce is one of the easiest things you can learn to make. Once you know the basics you can create anything you want. Start off with a little butter or olive is ok if you absolutely must, but obviously butter is best. Now, once you get the butter in a pan, over medium heat make sure you add in the flavor. Garlic is a must and you can go as light or as heavy as you want. Onions are another great addition and if you’re keeping it a white sauce, throw in a dash or two of nutmeg. Sounds crazy, but it really enriches the sauce.
How to Thicken a Cream Sauce
Alright, whisk everything together and add in an equal amount of flour. So, if you used 2 tablespoons of butter go ahead and start with 1 1/2-2 tablespoons of flour and whisk for 30-60 seconds. This will cook out the flour taste. Immediately, while continuing to whisk add your liquid. This is a great chance to bust out your ranch dressing (we used chili lime flavor and it is awesome, but there’s also classic and cucumber basil if you want to try something less spicy!!) as it seriously is the most amazing flavor to go along with chicken. Plus, what an easy kitchen hack as not only does one ingredient make the flavor instead of a long list of items, but it also helps thicken the sauce too!
Can You Use Milk in a Cream Sauce?
Add milk, cream or half and half as well. In fact you can use any or any combination. Obviously cream will lead to a thicker, more flavorful sauce, but we use milk all the time to be a little healthier. Whisk everything while you season with salt and pepper and the mixture should start to come to a boil. Turn it down as we don’t want to scorch it and let it simmer until it’s to a desired thickness.
Boom! That’s how you make a cream sauce with milk and flour.
Watch the video to see it all in action.
Cheesy Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole
Alright, now that we’ve got our sauce, let’s make our cheesy chicken bacon ranch casserole. I like to cook the pasta, preferably shells as they trap all of that sauce so every bite is awesome, while the sauce is simmering. Drain it well so it doesn’t make the sauce thin and set it aside.
Rub the bottom of the baking dish with butter and a clove of garlic. Pour in the pasta, add the chicken and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to season.
Pour the sauce over the top and top with two different kinds of cheese. The mozzarella adds the gooey factor while the cheddar adds extra flavor. Sprinkle with chopped up bacon and put the whole thing in the oven.
Right before serving the cheesy chicken bacon ranch casserole, sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and dinner is served!
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- 8 Ounces Small Shells Pasta
- 2 Tablespoons Butter, unsalted
- 2 Tablespoons Flour
- 1 Clove Garlic, Minced
- 1 Cup Heavy Cream *see note
- 1/4 Cup Chipotle Lime Ranch (or any flavor)
- 2 Cups Cooked and Shredded Chicken
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 Cup Mozzarella, shredded
- 1 Cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
- 3 Sliced Bacon, cooked and chopped
- Parsley for garnish
For the Pan
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- 1 Clove of garlic
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat a small pot over medium heat. Add the butter and whisk in the garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant and whisk in the flour. Continue whisking the mixture for 30-60 seconds to cook out the flour.
- While continuing to whisk, pour in the heavy cream.
- Add the ranch and season with salt, about 1/2 teaspoon, or to taste.
- Cook until the sauce begins to simmer and thicken, about 2-5 minutes. If it's not simmering and thickening just turn up the heat a little until it does. Do not boil or scorch.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions.
- Remove sauce from the heat.
- Drain the pasta.
- Mix the two cheeses together.
- In a casserole dish or 9x13" pan, rub the butter and clove of garlic everywhere. Add half the pasta and top with half of the chicken. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
- Pour half of the sauce over the top and sprinkle with half of the cheeses.
- Repeat with the last half of the ingredients and top with bacon at the end.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until hot and the cheeses are melted.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle with parsley and serve!
Any milk, half and half or combination can be used instead of cream.
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 504 Total Fat: 37g Saturated Fat: 20g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 14g Cholesterol: 129mg Sodium: 474mg Carbohydrates: 19g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 2g Protein: 25g
When we think of macaroni and cheese we always think of Grandma Carol’s ultimate comfort food, her cheesy Southern Macaroni and Cheese!