Melted Monterey Jack cheese, chicken and colorful bell peppers are baked with fusilli to make creamy chicken fajita pasta the whole family will love.
This simple, delicious dinner 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, chicken breast and Monterey Jack cheese.
Baked fajita pasta satisfies a hunger for comfort food, while also introducing something new. You'll love these creamy, cheesy noodles with the flavor of bell peppers and tender chunks of chicken breast. Cilantro is optional, either baked with the pasta or served on the side.
- Fusilli pasta
- Bell Peppers
- Monterey Jack cheese
- Paprika and 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
- Use a store bought shredded Mexican cheese blend
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 easier, 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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