The cooler weather is on the way and for me that means cooking lots of casseroles. This BBQ Ranch Chicken Casserole is rich and hearty and the perfect way to warm you up on a cool autumn night. And the fact that it’s one of my 30 minute meals makes it an added bonus for busy cooks!
Hearty casseroles loaded with pasta and cheese are right up there on my list of comfort foods, but since I am trying to follow a gluten free and lower fat diet, I had to make some adjustments for this recipe.
Don’t let that fool you though. This delicious casserole is loaded with flavor! For another great pasta dish, try this beef and penne pasta recipe. It’s a one pot meal that tastes amazing.
Making the BBQ ranch chicken casserole.
This recipe is so colorful and fresh looking. Small campari tomatoes (so sweet!) fresh corn kernels and crisp vidalia onion gives this casserole a feast for the eyes!
I started by cooking some gluten free penne pasta in boiling water. I like the way the little tubes hold the sauce in them and makes it easy to incorporate the ranch BBQ flavors throughout the dish.
While the pasta was cooking I added some olive oil to a pan and cooked the chicken breasts and then cut them up into bite sized pieces.
Once the pasta and chicken are ready, combine them with the vegetables in a large bowl. Make it a big one! This recipe fills a 9 x 11 baking dish to the top.
Stir in the ranch dressing (get my ranch dressing recipe here) and BBQ sauce. I chose a smoky barbecue sauce that is gluten free, but any type you are fond of will work.
Now comes the cheese. I’d LIKE to pile in a few cups of it and then add more to the top, but restraint is the name of the game, folks. 1/2 cup of mozzarella and another 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese get tossed in and the whole thing gets combined into one delicious bowl of YUM. If you are going light on cheese, Parmesan Reggiano is a good choice since it has tons of flavor.
Add a bit more grated cheese to the top (keep it fairly light to keep the calories down) and the casserole is ready to go into the oven.
Time to taste the BBQ Ranch Chicken Casserole
If you thought you’d be missing all that extra cheese, you are dead wrong. Every bite of this amazing casserole is hearty and rich but not heavy like a cream based cheese casserole is. Mixing in the cup of cheese through the casserole means that just a small amount is needed for the top.
I love the tang of the BBQ sauce and how it mingles with the ranch dressing to give a tangy sweet taste to each bite.
There is nothing better than hearty comfort food this time of the year. And when that comfort food is healthier and better for you? A match made in clean living heaven! Who says dieting has to be boring?
This chicken casserole with its lighter cheesy goodness and baked with ranch and BBQ ranch will delight your family and have them asking for more.
This recipe gives eight good sized helpings, each just under 500 calories each and it’s gluten free as long as you use a gluten free pasta and check your other labels. Add a tossed salad and dinner is on the table in just over 30 minutes!
If you like the taste of BBQ recipes, you will love the flavor of this BBQ Ranch Chicken Casserole. I like that that vidalia onions go into the casserole uncooked. This gives them a nice crunch when you are eating it that pairs beautifully with the BBQ sauce flavor.