This is an Indian-flavored spin on a chicken casserole. You don't see many—if any—casserole or pasta recipes from India, so this isn't anywhere near traditional. But it's easy to make, and it's delicious!
A "fusion" recipe combines elements from two or more cultures to create a different eating experience. For example, a taco made with the ingredients from a Chinese egg roll, or a chicken pot pie with a Moroccan-spiced filling.
In this case a standard chicken casserole with spinach and pasta is given a new direction with Indian spices and paneer.
Paneer is a mild Indian cheese similar in flavor to cottage cheese, but firmer. Spinach and paneer are already natural partners in the Indian dish Saag Paneer (literally, spinach and cheese).
Fusion recipes are very popular in restaurants because you can create entirely new dishes. And you may have already encountered it. Have you ever had a Southwestern Egg Roll? That's fusion!
There's a lot of prep work involved here (although not as much as a complex curry). Depending on you fast you can slice and chop, it could take up to 30 minutes to cut up the chicken, chop the ginger and garlic, slice the paneer, and measure all the other ingredients. So plan ahead, and do as much of the prep as possible early in the day, or even the day before.
Ingredients You'll Need
For the Chicken
- vermicelli (if you can't get vermicelli, use angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti)
- fresh ginger
- garam masala
- ground cumin
- chili powder
- tomato sauce
- heavy cream
- cayenne pepper
- chicken thighs or breasts
For the Spinach.
- paneer (if you can't get paneer, substitute cottage cheese or feta cheese)
- cream cheese
- garam masala
- ground cumin
- ground turmeric
- frozen chopped spinach
- green onions
How to Make This Indian-American Fusion Recipe
Here the cast of characters for the chicken: chicken (of course) surrounded by pasta; onion, garlic, and ginger; tomato sauce; butter, lemon juice; spices (garam masala, cumin, chili powder, and salt); yogurt; and heavy cream.
And here's what you'll need for the spinach: cream cheese; spices (garam masala, cumin, and turmeric; green onions; and paneer. And spinach.
Cook the Pasta
Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and set aside.
Cooking Hint: If you have to set cooked pasta aside while making the rest of a dish, it could stick together. To prevent this, I drizzle a little olive or canola oil over the pasta and toss to coat it well. No sticky pasta!
Make the Chicken
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for about 4 minutes until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally.
I didn't have any yellow onions, so I used a red onion. You can safely substitute any kind of onion in a casserole, and most people won't be able to tell the difference.
Add the lemon juice, ginger, garlic, garam masala, cumin, and chili powder and stir for 1 minute to let the flavors bloom.
Add the tomato sauce and stir for 2 minutes. Now you've got a red sauce.
Add the yogurt, cream cream, salt, and cayenne pepper and stir to mix. Now you've got a cream sauce.
Stir in the chicken. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Now you've got a meat sauce! See how this works? If you figure out the layering of the ingredients you can start creating your own sauces!
Make the Spinach
Combine three-fourths of the paneer and the cream cheese, garam masala, cumin, and turmeric in a large bowl. Paneer is a very firm cheese, so you'll have a lumpy mixture.
Stir in the spinach. It's done!
Assemble and Cook the Casserole
Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 9x13 baking dish.
Transfer half of the chicken mixture to the dish.
Top with half of the pasta.
Spread the spinach mixture evenly over the pasta and top with the remaining pasta.
(I forgot to take a picture of the spinach layer, but you can see it peeking out under the pasta.)
Finally, add the remaining chicken mixture.
Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with the remaining paneer and the green onions. Bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Here it is out of the oven.
You'll be amazed at the complex flavors when this hits your tongue! Sometimes fusion cooking starts out as confusion until your brain figures it out!
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📖 Recipe Card
Indian-Spiced Chicken Casserole
Special Equipment Needed
- 1 large skillet
- 1 9x13 baking dish
- 8 ounces vermicelli or angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti
For the Chicken
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup onion finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger finely minced
- 2 teaspoons garlic finely minced
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- ¾ cup plain yogurt
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 pound chicken thighs or breasts boneless and skinless, chopped
For the Spinach
- 1 pound paneer cut into ½-inch cubes
- 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese softened
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach thawed and well drained
- green onions thinly sliced
Make the Pasta
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.8 ounces vermicelli
To Make the Chicken
- Heat the butter in a large skillet heat butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook about 4 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally.3 tablespoons butter, ½ cup onion
- Add the lemon juice, ginger, garlic, garam masala, cumin, and chili powder and stir for 1 minute.1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, 2 teaspoons garlic, 2 teaspoons garam masala, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons chili powder
- Add the tomato sauce and stir for 2 minutes.8 ounces tomato sauce
- Add the yogurt, cream cream, salt, and cayenne pepper and stir to mix.¾ cup plain yogurt, ¾ cup heavy cream, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Stir in the chicken. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.1 pound chicken thighs or breasts
To Make the Spinach
- In a large bowl combine three-fourths of the paneer and the cream cheese, garam masala, cumin, and turmeric. Stir in the spinach.1 pound paneer, 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach
Assemble and Bake the Casserole
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9x13 baking dish. Transfer half of the chicken mixture to the dish. Top with half of the pasta and spread evenly with spinach mixture. Top with the remaining pasta and the remaining chicken mixture.
- Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with the remaining paneer and the green onions. Bake, uncovered, for 5 minutesgreen onions
THIS RECIPE IS FROM
The Spice of Your Life - https://thespiceofyourlife.com