By day, I do the finances for a very large, beautiful Baptist church here in Louisville. (Not that it matters, but hubs and I are Catholic and we joke with the members of this church all the time that, “We are the heathen Catholic couple!”) Every Wednesday afternoon I knock off at 1:30 to meet Charlie at the door and walk down to the church kitchen where together, we prepare their Wednesday Night Fellowship meal. This is our fifth year of doing that walk.
I think it’s worth noting here that I haven’t always been a good cook, let alone someone who was trained in feeding the masses! Raising my daughter alone, I remember a very limited scope of what I actually made from scratch. There for a while, we ate almost all of our meals out at Applebee’s. (Yes, it’s true. If I could do that over, I certainly would.) When Charlie came along ten years ago, he came with the experience of not only being a retired Firefighter, but his firehouse’s cook. Soon enough, he was preparing all of our meals.
That is, until we moved to a new condo that had a wonderful kitchen. It was there, two years prior to my being hired at the church, that I discovered my absolute love of cooking. Turns out, I not only love cooking, I’m told my food is worth eating! (That’s a total plus!)
Just after I was hired, I learned of an opening to aid in the Wednesday Fellowship Meal prep. I am ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS on the hunt for side job experiences, so I immediately signed us up! (Poor Charlie. He’s sooo stuck with “a joiner”.)
Long story short, after the first season, we ended up taking over the entire meal preparation. That means we decide what to make, we shop for our ingredients, we prepare the food, we help to serve the food and do the dishes and it’s darned hard work. I joke all the time that,”It’s ALWAYS Wednesday in our life”. I feel like it’s true! It’s also true that it’s like planning a huge party once a week and for this reason, I adore it!
A lot of times, I adapt recipes that Charlie and I make at home in order to share with the church. This tortellini casserole is something I saw on TV long ago. It seemed so easy. I made it for us and we loved it, so I figured out an easier way to make if for the church.
I will give you the original recipe and then I will tell you how to tweak it for a crowd! But first, meet my hubs, Charlie Alfredo! LOL!
Bacon Roasted Chicken Tortellini
½-20 oz. pkg. Hardwood Smoked Bacon
1 pkg. Chicken Breast (about 1 ¾ lb.)
½ tsp. Kosher Salt
½ tsp. Garlic Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp. Dried basil
¼ tsp. Coarse Ground Black Pepper
2-19 oz. pkgs. Frozen Cheese Tortellini (I always go for the tri-color variety. It’s just prettier)
1-12 oz. pkg. Frozen Peas
2-16.9 oz. pkgs. Alfredo Sauce (at home, I make my own, but use jarred if you are scared!)
6 slices Provolone Cheese
Preheat oven to 375° & lightly spray a 9″X13″ casserole dish with pan release.
Layout bacon on a baking sheet & bake until crisp (about 15 minutes or so).
Remove bacon from baking sheet & move onto a paper towel lined plate to drain. Do not discard the grease from the baking sheet.
Season both sides of the chicken breast with salt, Italian seasoning & black pepper. Place directly on the already hot baking sheet. Flip chicken so that bacon grease is now on both sides of the chicken. Roast chicken for 10 minutes & then flip. Roast another 10 minutes & check for doneness. The chicken should read 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from oven & let rest on your cutting board for 3-5 minutes before slicing into thin strips.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sliced chicken, uncooked, frozen tortellini, frozen peas & both jars of Alfredo. Crumbled the bacon over top & toss well to combine.
Pour mixture into your prepared casserole dish. Cover top with sliced provolone cheese. Bake for 25 minutes covered with foil & then 10 minutes uncovered. The casserole should be hot, bubbly, and browned on top.
Yeah okay, that’s how we made it at home.
For church (or a large group), skip frying the bacon and doing the chicken in the bacon fat. Instead, go to the market and buy prepared chicken. You can find frozen chopped chicken as well OR buy a rotisserie chicken OR boil some chicken tenders. AND for the bacon, buy frozen, chopped bacon OR buy already prepared bacon and chop it up. Skip the entire part about cooking all this stuff and just add it in with the other ingredients.
THE BEST part about this recipe is that you NEVER have to cook the tortellini; just dump it in as is. Oh and…it’s DELICIOUS,too!!!
PS- Tomorrow’s recipe will be “Zucchini Leak Pie”! Don’t miss it!