Lightened-Up Chicken Penne Casserole

Hi, Mommy on Demand readers! I’m stopping by again from The Seasoned Mom with a healthy, easy, family-friendly dinner that will please every member of your household…while keeping your New Year’s Resolutions on track!

This Lightened-Up Chicken Penne Casserole is a nutritious way to satisfy your family’s comfort food cravings, while filling their bodies with wholesome ingredients. It’s easy to pull together, can be prepped in advance, and it tastes absolutely amazing!

 Lightened Up Chicken Penne Casserole (1)

It’s January, which means that many of us are focused even more on making healthy food choices for ourselves and for our family members. But that “resolution” can be hard to keep when you have kids who are begging you for a warm, cheesy, pasta dish…or a husband who loves his meat!

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Salads and steamed veggies definitely don’t qualify as “meals” in my house. Yes, my kids like their greens. However, they definitely expect more than a pile of lettuce for dinner! Veggies on the side? Good. Veggies for the main course? Not good! That’s why this healthy dinner recipe makes us all happy! My kids get their pasta and cheese casserole, Keith gets his meat, and I manage to squeeze some extra veggies into my boys’ bodies!

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While I have lightened-up a traditional casserole recipe, believe me when I say that this DEFINITELY DOES NOT “taste healthy.” Nobody will know that it’s good for them as they devour it at mealtime. In fact, I think that it has officially become one of my family’s new favorite dinners. The baby, who just turned one, could not get enough of it! He cleaned his plate, and was fussing at me when seconds weren’t appearing fast enough! Every other boy at my table gobbled it up as well. That’s what I call an official stamp of approval.

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And if you’ve read my blog in the past, you probably know that most of the recipes I create can be prepared in advance. The evening dinner rush is just such a terrible time for me to be standing in the kitchen making an elaborate dinner. Instead, everyone is hungry, tired, cranky, and busy with a zillion activities. I need meals that I can make when life is a bit quieter (i.e., the night before/nap time/preschool time) and then just pop in the oven when we’re ready to eat. This, my friends, is one of those gems! Make it when you have a free moment, and it will be ready and waiting for you later. In fact, you could even prepare it over the weekend and stick the uncooked dish in the freezer until you need it later. Whatever suits your schedule!

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Enjoy your time around the dinner table with this nutritious meal that will leave everyone smiling. And don’t forget to stop by my blog for even more kid-approved, Mom-friendly dinner ideas to make your life easier. Happy New Year!

Lightened-Up Chicken Penne Casserole
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: serves 4-6
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • ½ cup diced green bell pepper
  • ½ cup diced sweet red bell pepper
  • 3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 ½ cups uncooked wholegrain penne pasta
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 ½ cups (6 ounces) reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. In a large non-stick skillet sprayed with cooking spray, sauté chicken, onion, peppers, Italian seasoning, and salt until chicken is no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta until almost tender, but still slightly firm (I usually reduce suggested cooking time by about 1 minute).
  3. Add marinara sauce to chicken mixture and remove from heat.
  4. Drain pasta; toss with chicken mixture. Spoon half of the mixture into a greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the cheeses. Repeat layers.
  5. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15-20 minutes longer or until heated through.



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