If you’re looking for an easy and satisfying comfort meal, Chicken Ranch Pasta Bake is the ideal dish. Loaded with three different kinds of cheese and your choice of pasta, this recipe is sure to become a family favorite.
Are you looking for a quick, simple dinner that everyone will love? And even better, a recipe that uses basic ingredients? If so, a Chicken Ranch pasta bake is a meal you will make again and again.
When I’m short on time this cheesy chicken casserole with buttery, garlicky herb sauce is one of my go-to recipes. It’s simple to make and will please even the pickiest eaters, especially if you’re serving kids (or adults!) who wrinkle their noses any time a vegetable crosses their path!
This recipe ditches the canned soup called for in so many casseroles. Instead, it features a made-from-scratch velvety sauce that tastes fresh and is healthier for you.
It reminds me of a baked version of hearty chicken noodle soup with three kinds of melty, gooey cheese. This is truly comfort food at its best.
For other high protein chicken meals to make for dinner, check the archives for dozens of delicious recipes to choose from, here are a few favorites.
- Tender Chicken Adobo over rice with a savory sauce is ready in 30 minutes.
- Sweet and tangy Baked Lemon Chicken features plump dates and caramelized lemons.
- For an easy weeknight dinner on the grill, try Taco Chicken drizzled with warm queso.
- Fan-favorite Chicken Tamale Pie has a cornbread base topped with melted cheddar and Monterey Jack.
- Easy Instant Pot Barbecue Chicken with homemade smoky-sweet sauce is perfect for sandwiches.
Why You’ll Love Ranch Chicken Pasta Bake
- This simple cheesy chicken pasta is perfect for weekday dinners when time is short.
- Parmesan and garlic add depth to the rich, thick, homemade sauce.
- Ranch seasoning creates a creamy, zippy herb taste that will make you go back for more.
- It’s fun to experiment with different types of pasta each time you make the casserole.
Ranch Chicken Casserole Ingredients
- Chicken – use chicken breasts or thighs depending on your preference. A rotisserie makes this super easy. If you have a few minutes, cook your own chicken breasts, you’ll see how easy it really is to have tender chicken breasts.
- Cheese – cheddar, mozzarella and Parmesan contribute to the melty, creamy sauce, but you can substitute with your favorite, just make sure one is a melty cheese like mozzarella.
- Half-and-half – to thicken the sauce and add a rich taste. If you want to reduce the fat, you can use who 2% milk, it won’t be quite as creamy but still delicious. I wouldn’t try skim though as you need a little fat for the sauce.
- Garlic – provides a nutty, mild flavor. Just mince it with a garlic press.
- Butter – for browning the garlic.
- Pasta – use any shape you like.
- Dry ranch dressing – a 1-ounce packet adds the flavor of herbs and onion. Packaged ranch dressing is made up of onion powder, onion flakes, dill, parsley, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and dried chives which is what adds so much flavor to this dish. You can easily make your own, here’s a recipe from Spend with Pennies.
- Red pepper flakes – these are optional but lend a nice amount of spicy heat
How to make Chicken Ranch Casserole
Step 1: Cook the garlic in a skillet and gradually whisk in the half-and-half and cook until slightly thickened. Add some parmesan.
Step 2: Cook the pasta and place in a baking dish.
Step 3: Combine the chopped cooked chicken and ranch seasoning in a medium bowl
Spoon it over the pasta, then cover with the garlic sauce. Sprinkle cheese over the top.
Step 4: Bake for about 15-20 minutes until bubbly and heated through.
Pro tip: Did you know you can freeze half-and-half? Pour the leftovers into a plastic container with an airtight lid. Leave at least an inch of space to allow for expansion. To freeze smaller servings, use an ice cube tray. To defrost, thaw in the fridge until liquified. At this point, the half-and-half may have a curdled appearance. This is normal and even though it may not look pretty, it’s perfectly fine to consume.
What To Serve with Chicken Ranch Pasta
I like to serve a vegetable or fruit along with the baked ranch chicken. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Sweet and savory Bourbon Glazed Carrots
- Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms drizzled with butter and fresh herbs
- One-pan Green Beans with Bacon and Onions
- Easy, healthy and quick Veggie Packs
- Fresh Strawberry Spinach Salad sprinkled with almonds
- Fruit Salad brightened with honey lime dressing
Chicken Ranch Bake Variations
- Sneak in some steamed broccoli to the mix.
- Try adding cooked and crumbled bacon for an over the top dish.
- Make it spicy by using Pepper Jack cheese.
- Sprinkle some chopped green onions on top.
If you find yourself cooking with chicken a lot and want to know for sure that your chicken is cooked thoroughly, head to my informational page on ways to make sure your chicken is cooked all the way but still remains juicy and delicious.
Looking for dessert ideas to serve with chicken pasta casserole? With over 150 sweet recipes to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect end to your meal.
Chicken Pasta Casserole FAQ
Most any shape of pasta will be great in this dish. You could try spaghetti or fettuccine, bow tie, fusilli or penne. Orzo, rigatoni or even egg noodles would work as well. Experiment with a new shape each time you make the casserole to change things up.
Most casseroles don’t cook long enough for raw chicken to be fully cook so pre cooked chicken will have to be used. Exceptions are those recipes like queso chicken where whole chicken breasts cook for 30 minutes, allowing the chicken to reach a safe temperature.
Yes, it’s easy to make the meal ahead of time and bake it when you’re ready. Prepare the casserole through step three. Cover and store in the fridge for a day or two.
Remove the pan from the fridge about 30-60 minutes before cooking to allow it to warm to room temperature. Then uncover and bake until bubbly and heated through.
If you have leftovers, you can reheat them in the oven or the microwave. To heat in the oven, let the casserole sit out for 20-30 minutes before heating. Place the leftovers in a baking pan, cover and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes.
When reheating in the microwave, use a container that is microwave safe. Cover the food before heating for about 2 minutes, depending on the amount of leftovers and the wattage of your microwave.
Whether you cover a chicken casserole or not depends on whether you need the casserole to retain the steam that is generated to cook rice, pasta or vegetables. In this casserole everything is already cooked when it goes in the oven and you are just heating it up and letting the cheese melt, so no cover is needed.
More Chicken Casserole Recipes
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- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup half-and-half
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- 1 ½ cups chicken cooked and chopped
- 1 packet ranch salad dressing 1 ounce
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 8 ounces pasta
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
- ½ cup cheddar cheese shredded
- Preheat oven to 375º.
- Melt butter in a small saucepan, add garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 1-2 minutes. Gradually whisk in half-and-half stirring for about 2 minutes until it is warm. Add parmesan and cook until it starts to slightly thicken, about 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- While making the sauce, bring water to boil in a large pot and cook pasta, drain and place in prepared baking dish.
- In a medium bowl, combine chopped cooked chicken and dry ranch dressing. Place chicken over pasta and pour the sauce over the chicken. Top with cheese.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until just bubbly and heated through.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- You can make this in advance and freeze or refrigerate prior to baking.
- For leftovers, cover with aluminum foil and heat in the oven at 350º.
- It’s easy to cook your own chicken, follow this recipe.
- You can make this spicy by adding Pepper Jack cheese.