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Chicken Pumpkin Casserole

Casserole baby! I am in a casserole making mood. And a pumpkin-flavored everything mood. If that makes me basic, then so be it.
Is there anything better than making a few casseroles on the weekend, smelling the heavenly aromas of chicken sage and cheese wafting in your house, and eating like a king all week? Or better still, splitting this recipe into 2 8 by 8 pans, keeping one for yourself and giving another to a loved one to share home-cooked comfort food?
This recipe is a bevy of my favorite things; sage, cheese, bacon, pasta, caramelized onions and PUMPKIN. This recipe screams sweater weather, fall foliage and crisp blue skies. Give it a go- I promise you’ll be scraping your bowl. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 sweet onion, sliced into half moons
¼ cup white wine
2 cloves garlic
18 ounces of pumpkin puree
1 cup of chicken stock, low salt
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
Pinch red pepper flakes
Freshly cracked black pepper

For the Pasta:
1 pound pasta (elbow, penne- something shortcut)
1 pound chicken thighs (boneless, skinless
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup Parmigianno Regianno
¼ cup Pecorina Romano
Crumbled, crispy bacon (1/4 to ½ a cup- your preference!)
Freshly chopped parsley and chives

Butter 9 by 13 inch pan and set aside. 
In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add in the thinly sliced onion and cook them until they are caramelized (deep golden brown), about 20 to 30 minutes. At the end, add the white wine and reduce until the onions are almost jammy. 
Meanwhile, combine the garlic, pumpkin puree, chicken broth, milk, olive oil, sage leaves, nutmeg, salt, honey,  red pepper flakes and freshly cracked black pepper into a blender and process until silky smooth. Pour this into the skillet with the caramelized onion and bring to a simmer.
Cook the pasta in heavily salted water according to packet instructions, stopping a little early (right before al dente so the pasta doesn’t turn to mush in the oven). Poach the chicken for 10 to 15 minutes in salted boiling water; remove and allow it to rest long enough so it is cool enough to shred. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the pasta, shredded chicken, ½ cup mozzarella, bacon and sauce in a bowl and mix well. Pour this mixture into your prepared 9 by 13 inch pan. Top with the mixture with the remaining cheeses and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling away. Allow the pasta to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving; garnish with some fresh parsley and chives. Dig in!


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