Melted Monterey Jack cheese, chicken and colorful bell peppers are baked with fusilli to make a creamy fajita pasta bake the whole family will love.
This simple, delicious chicken fajita pasta is baked pasta, with a twist.
I love a pan of rich pasta with marinara and mozzarella, but chicken fajita pasta is something entirely different.
Instead of Italian flavors, these noodles are baked with bright and colorful bell peppers, fajita-seasoned chicken breast and tangy Monterey Jack cheese.
You'll love these creamy, cheesy noodles with the sweet flavor of bell peppers and tender chunks of chicken breast. Cilantro is optional, either baked with the pasta or served on the side.
- Chicken (cooked and shredded)
- Fusilli pasta
- Bell Peppers (use frozen chopped peppers)
- Monterey Jack cheese
- Whole Cream
- Paprika, chili powder, garlic
Cooking Short Cuts
- Use leftover cooked chicken, rotisserie chicken or store-bought cooked chicken breast
- Check the grocery store freezer section for frozen chopped bell peppers
Add More Flavor
This is mild and cheesy kid-friendly pasta, but you can spice things up and add even more flavor by adding additional ingredients.
- Pepper Jack cheese, or a combination of Pepper Jack and regular Monterey Jack
- Red pepper flakes
- Diced green chiles (4-oz can)
Monterey Jack Cheese Substitutes
Monterey Jack cheese is semi-soft, creamy and fairly mild with a pleasant flavor that is slightly sharp and tangy. The soft texture means it melts really well into a smooth and creamy sauce for pasta.
If choosing a Monterey Jack cheese substitute for this recipe, consider using cheese that will melt just as well. As this article about how to melt cheese by Cabot explains, cheese that has a higher moisture content melts better than dry, aged cheese. For this reason, a young mild cheddar will have a smoother melting texture than aged extra sharp cheddar, which can become grainy.
Cheese substitutes for Monterey Jack include:
- Cheddar - Use mild or medium cheddar
- Cheddar Jack - A blend of Monterey Jack and mild cheddar
- Shredded Mexican cheese blend - A pre-shredded blend that usually includes Monterey Jack, cheddar, asadero and other types of similar cheese
- Gruyere - A really bold and flavorful Swiss cheese
- Gouda - Use young, soft Gouda
- Mozzarella - Very mild, but melts well
Does the Chicken in Baked Pasta Have to Be Pre-Cooked?
It's tempting to put raw chicken directly into the pasta before it bakes, so you can skip the step of cutting and sauteing the meat. However, for food safety reasons, it's recommended to pre-cook chicken at least partially before it's added to baked pasta.
Chicken must reach an internal temperature of at least 165 F to insure that it is cooked. Pre-cooking the chicken makes sure that this temperature is reached by the time the chicken and pasta come out of the oven.
To make this recipe even easy, consider using leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken.
More Pasta Recipes
- Instant Pot Chicken Parmesan Pasta
- Pork and Ricotta Meatballs
- Crockpot Lasagna (vegetarian)
- One-Pot Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Kale
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Fajita Pasta Bake
Cooked chicken breast and frozen chopped bell peppers make this a fairly quick recipe to put together. Add grated cheese, cream and seasonings for a really yummy baked pasta dish the whole family will love.
*this recipe was re-tested and perfected on 3/23/21
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings 1x
- Category: pasta
- Method: baked
- Cuisine: American
- 1 pound fusilli pasta
- 1 to 1 ½ pounds cooked chicken breast, shredded or cut into bite-sized pieces (2 to 4 cups)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 16-ounce bag frozen bell peppers
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 16 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated (5 to 6 cups grated)
- Optional: ½ to 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add pasta to the boiling water. Cook the pasta 2 minutes less than the pasta cooking instructions, so the noodles are still slightly firm. ( I cook the fusilli for 7 to 8 minutes)
- **Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining the pasta. Set the 1 cup of pasta water aside.
- Drain remaining pasta water and set the pasta aside.
- While the pasta boils, drizzle a little bit of olive oil in a saute pan and saute bell peppers with garlic. Saute about 5 minutes, to heat the frozen bell peppers until most of the moisture evaporates.
- In a large bowl, toss cooked chicken in olive oil and season with paprika and chili powder. Add salt to taste.
- Add bell peppers and garlic, cooked pasta, cream, reserved pasta water, and 3 cups/8 ounces grated cheese to the chicken. Add salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon salt). Mix really well.
- Add cilantro, if using. Mix again.
- Spread the noodles out in a 9x13 baking pan.
- Sprinkle remaining grated cheese on top.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake 10 to 15 minutes more, until the cheese is completely melted and bubbly on top
Keywords: fajita pasta, chicken fajita pasta, bell pepper pasta,
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