When I first made this, I was surprised by how well it was received - it's just so easy! You can also prepare and assemble the dish in advance, then bake it when it is required, definitely an additional bonus.
Although this does work with any boneless, skinless chicken (I use whatever is cheaper at the supermarket), thighs are probably a little nicer as they have less of a tendency to dry out.
For 6 servings:500g short pasta shapes (spirals, penne etc)
500g boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
2 Tbsp olive or canola oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 large clove garlic, peeled and chopped
400g can diced tomatoes in juice
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1/2 cup cream
1/2-1 cup grated cheese
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rapid boil and cook the pasta for 8-10 minutes – it should be just slightly underdone at this stage as it will soften a little more as it is baked – then drain it and set it aside.
Cut the chicken crossways into slices about 7mm thick. Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large frypan, then add the chicken and stir-fry until it is lightly browned. Lift the chicken from the pan and set it aside.
Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring frequently until the onion is soft and beginning to turn clear. Stir in the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicken and cream to the tomato mixture and simmer gently for a few minutes.
Non-stick spray or oil a shallow 2.5-3 litre capacity casserole dish. Stir the tomato and chicken mixture through the cooked pasta, then tip the pasta mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with the grated cheese. (You can make the dish to this point in advance if desired, then cover and refrigerate until required.)
Bake at 180°C for 20-30 minutes (use the longer time if the casserole was refrigerated) until the top is golden brown. Serve with a simple salad on the side.