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      Smart Chicken Penne Pasta Casserole

      The holidays are fast approaching and this Smart Chicken Penne Pasta Casserole is perfect for those busy nights when you just don't have enough time to cook. Make this the night before and then bake it the next day for dinner. Or, you can divide it into two smaller casserole dishes and eat one and then freeze the other!

      Extra-virgin olive oil, for sautéing Smart Chicken

      1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless Smart Chicken boneless, skinless breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

      Or

      1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless thighs, cut into bite-size pieces

      Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

      1 medium onion, diced

      1 green bell pepper, diced

      6 garlic cloves, minced

      1 Tablespoon dried oregano

      1 teaspoon dried basil

      Pinch (or more, to taste) red pepper flakes

      1 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

      1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice

      Sliced kalamata olives, optional

      1/2 cup red wine, your choice

      1 large bay leaf

      10 ounces dry penne pasta, cooked until just firm

      2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese, more if desired

      2/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, divided

      • In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain. Set aside.
      • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 13x9x2 inch baking dish with non-vegetable cooking spray (Pam). Season Smart Chicken with salt and pepper. In a large saucepan, heat oil and brown Smart Chicken until no longer pink, about five minutes. Transfer to a plate, cover and set aside.
      • In the same pan add onion, green pepper, garlic, oregano, basil and crushed red pepper flakes. Sauté about 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes with juice, wine, if using, kalamata olives, bay leaf and Smart Chicken. Simmer on low for about 35-40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
      • Line the bottom of the greased casserole dish with cooked penne pasta; sprinkle the top with about 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Remove bay leaf from the sauce and spoon the sauce over the pasta.
      • Mix the Mozzarella cheese with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the sauce. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the casserole is hot and bubbly. Serves 6 to 8. This dish will freeze nicely, up to one month.
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