This is one of our new favorite casseroles. Even my husband who is not always crazy about a casserole, loved it! The basic recipe is one that has been around for a while, but I took it and jazzed it up a bit. I think the tweaks to it worked very well and it's one of the easiest pasta bakes I have ever made. It's also very budget friendly and the leftovers are even better the next day. That's a winner in my book. Here is what you will need:
3/4 of a 16 oz. box of pasta ( I used rotinni, but penne, bow tie or elbow would work fine also)
4 - 5 boneless chicken breasts depending on size, about 4 cups chopped chicken
1 lb. Velveeta cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Rotel tomatoes (I used regular, but if you don't like spicy, use the mild ones)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups crushed tortilla chips
1/2 stick of butter
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup diced green or red bell pepper
1 pkg taco seasoning ( I used Old El Paso, but any would work)
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Tabasco sauce (optional)
Drizzle chicken breasts with olive oil or vegetable oil. Sprinkle with a little salt, black pepper and the taco seasoning (reserve 2 tsp. of taco seasoning for the pasta). Place in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes or until done but not dry. Let it cool while you prepare the rest of the casserole, the chop in bite size pieces.
Cook the pasta as directed on the package just until al dente, just under cook it by about a minute. Drain it thoroughly in a colander and then add it back to the warm pot. Add the soup, cubed Velveeta, Rotel tomatoes, sour cream, milk, onions and peppers, black pepper, seasoned salt, and the rest of the taco seasoning. Let it sit for a few minutes so the warm pasta sort of melts the Velveeta. It doesn't have to be completely melted because it will melt more as it bakes. The consistency is actually better if it isn't totally melted when it goes in the oven. Gently fold all of this together, careful not to mash up your pasta. If it doesn't seem moist enough add another 1/2 cup of milk.
Pour this mixture in a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the top with shredded cheddar cheese. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 -45 minutes. When it has been in the oven for 30 minutes, sprinkle the top with the crushed tortilla chips. Return to oven for the last 10 - 15 minutes. It should be hot and bubbly when you take it out and the tortilla chips will just be starting to brown.
Serve with a salad and bread and dinner is served!