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This Lightened-Up Chicken Penne Casserole is a nutritious way to satisfy your family’s comfort food cravings while filling their tummies with wholesome ingredients. It’s easy to pull together, can be prepped in advance, and it tastes absolutely amazing!

Lightened Up Chicken Penne Casserole

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It’s January, which means that many of us are focused even more on making healthy food choices for ourselves and for our family members. But that “resolution” can be hard to keep when you have kids who are begging you for a warm, cheesy, pasta dish…or a husband who loves his meat!

Lightened Up Chicken Penne Pasta 2

Salads and steamed veggies definitely don’t qualify as “meals” in my house. Yes, my kids like their greens. However, they definitely expect more than a pile of lettuce for dinner! Veggies on the side? Good. Veggies for the main course? Not good! That’s why this healthy dinner recipe makes us all happy. My kids get their pasta and cheese casserole, Keith gets his meat, and I manage to squeeze some extra veggies into my boys’ bodies!

Lightened Up Chicken Penne Pasta 3

While I have lightened-up a traditional casserole recipe, believe me when I say that this DEFINITELY DOES NOT “taste healthy.” Nobody will know that it’s good for them as they devour it at mealtime. In fact, I think that it has officially become one of my family’s new favorite dinners. The baby, who just turned one, could not get enough of it! He cleaned his plate, and was fussing at me when seconds weren’t appearing fast enough! Every other boy at my table gobbled it up as well. That’s what I call an official stamp of approval.

Lightened Up Chicken Penne Pasta 4

And if you’ve read my blog in the past, you probably know that most of the recipes I create can be prepared in advance. The evening dinner rush is such a terrible time for me to be standing in the kitchen making an elaborate dinner. Instead, everyone is hungry, tired, cranky, and busy with a zillion activities. I need meals that I can make when life is a bit quieter (i.e., the night before/nap time/preschool time) and then just pop in the oven when we’re ready to eat. This, my friends, is one of those gems! Make it when you have a free moment, and it will be ready and waiting for you later. In fact, you could even prepare it over the weekend and stick the uncooked dish in the freezer until you need it later. Whatever suits your schedule!

Lightened Up Chicken Penne Pasta 5

Enjoy your time around the dinner table with this nutritious meal that will leave everyone smiling!

Lightened Up Chicken Penne Casserole 6

I’m sharing this recipe over on Brittany’s blog, Mommy on Demand, so be sure to check it out! The full recipe is here.

And if you’re looking for other healthy and delicious family-friendly meals, try these favorites:

Healthy Chicken Chow Mein

Healthy Chicken Chow Mein

4-Ingredient, 4-Minute Chicken Taco Rice Bowls

Chicken Taco Rice Bowls

6 Healthy Crockpot Freezer Meals in 45 Minutes!

6 Healthy Crockpot Freezer Meals

Slow Cooker Healthy Taco Ranch Chili

Slow Cooker Healthy Taco Ranch Chili

My Grandmother’s Hamburger Soup

My Grandmother's Hamburger Soup


Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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  1. Chicken and pasta are two of our favorites! Thanks for sharing a lighter option with this mouth-watering dish!

    1. Hey, Allison! This is an old post that was shared as a guest post on another blog. It looks like her blog is no longer active, so I’ll re-publish the recipe below for you (thanks for catching that)!

      Lightened-Up Chicken Penne Casserole
      Serves 4-6
      Prep 25 mins
      Bake 45 mins

      1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
      ½ cup diced onion
      ½ cup diced green bell pepper
      ½ cup diced sweet red bell pepper
      3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
      ½ teaspoon salt
      3 teaspoons minced garlic
      1 ½ cups uncooked wholegrain penne pasta
      2 cups marinara sauce
      1 ½ cups (6 ounces) reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
      ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

      In a large non-stick skillet sprayed with cooking spray, sauté chicken, onion, peppers, Italian seasoning, and salt until chicken is no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

      Meanwhile, cook pasta until almost tender, but still slightly firm (I usually reduce suggested cooking time by about 1 minute).

      Add marinara sauce to chicken mixture and remove from heat.

      Drain pasta; toss with chicken mixture. Spoon half of the mixture into a greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the cheeses. Repeat layers.

      Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15-20 minutes longer or until heated through.