Creamy, Cheesy Artichoke & Chicken Pasta Bake

March 14, 2019
27 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

Doused in a rich, thick, absurdly creamy sauce flecked with hunks of artichoke hearts and strands of wilted spinach, and baked until just golden brown with sprinkles of mozzarella on top, Artichoke Basille's namesake pie is the most decadent combination of carbs and dairy I have ever come across. It was a glorious case of love at first bite. And ever since we met, it's been my go-to late-night snack.

But since a trip to one of their locations isn't always in the cards, I decided to make this pasta to satisfy any strong and sudden cravings for a slice. I flipped through my taste memories (and texted my best friend, Julian, who is also an Artichoke Basille's disciple) and assembled a lineup of ingredients—milk, cream, cream cheese, mozzarella, garlic and onion powder, canned artichokes, spinach, and basil—that had to at least be close to what they use in the real thing. To get that essential bready element in there, I grabbed a loaf of fluffy focaccia to bake on top.

Using Martha Stewart's Genius-approved macaroni and cheese as a model, I made a luscious cheese sauce (cream cheese included) and started adding dashes of onion powder, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes by the half-teaspoon until it tasted, well, delicious. Then, I dumped in the artichoke hearts (plus a splash of their juices, for tang), some grilled chicken I had leftover for heft (as if it needed any), and mixed in the spinach, basil, and penne rigate.

Is this a perfect replica? Of course not. But it has everything I love about the original pizza—a velvety and flavorful sauce with just a tiny bit of bite from the artichokes and red pepper, the melty mozzarella, and the crispy focaccia (which offers the illusion of crust without having to make a dough from scratch). The best part: I don't have to leave the house, or even wait in line. —Erin Alexander

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: A Lusciously Cheesy Artichoke Pasta Inspired by My Favorite Midnight Snack. —The Editors

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6 (depends on how hungry you are)
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 4 thick slices ciabatta or focaccia, torn into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (plus more for greasing the baking dish)
  • 1/2 pound grilled chicken breast, torn into large chunks
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups cream
  • 3 1/2 cups shredded, low-moisture mozzarella, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil, torn and divided
  • 2 (6 1/2-ounce) jars marinated and quarter-cut artichoke hearts, drained (for more tang, reserve some of the liquid)
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach
In This Recipe
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Cook the pasta al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and set aside, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan or microwave (for the microwave, use 30-second intervals). In a bowl, toss the ciabatta or focaccia chunks with the melted butter and set aside.
  4. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and bubbling, add the flour and whisk together to form a thick, smooth roux (if too thick, add more butter; if too thin, add more flour). Keep whisking over low heat until the roux takes on a light brown color and gives off a slightly nutty smell (you shouldn’t be able to smell the raw flour), about 2 to 5 minutes.
  5. Then whisk in the milk and cream until it’s fully incorporated with the roux. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Turn down the heat to low and whisk in 2 1/2 cups mozzarella and the cream cheese until fully melted and incorporated. Whisk in the garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, plus salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Stir in 2/3 cup basil, artichokes (for a tangier sauce, add some of the artichoke liquid), grilled chicken, and cooked pasta. If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved pasta water as needed to loosen it up. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Turn off the heat on the stovetop. Stir in the spinach.
  7. Butter a large casserole dish (I used a 10 x 10-inch, but you could use a slightly larger one and be just fine) and add the pasta mixture to the dish. Top with the buttered bread chunks. Sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella and 1/3 cup basil over top. Bake the dish until the cheese is browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes.
  8. Serve hot out of the oven and don’t forget to snap a pic of that cheese pull.

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Erin Alexander is the Brand Partnerships Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.