This recipe was a request from a client who was looking for a lightened up creamy chicken casserole.  My husband went back for seconds and we were both picking out of the dish when we passed by the fridge for the rest of the night, so it was a success in our house.

If you don’t have butternut squash substitute something similarly soft and sweet like yams or sweet potatoes. Leftover mixed roasted veggies would work too and will give a great depth of flavour. In a pinch throw some mixed frozen veggies in, just be sure to pump up the garlic and pepper to make up for the differences in flavour.

Resist the urge to dial back the garlic and pepper- both of these help give flavour when the sauce is lower fat.

To make the whole thing breezy save this casserole for a day when you have leftover squash (see my roasted butternut squash recipe)  and chicken from another meal. Then make the sauce and pasta, throw it in the oven and voila-weeknight magic!

Side note: This recipe calls for roasted garlic- but feel free to substitute sautéed garlic or garlic powder in a pinch. Roasting garlic does make life easier- so next time you are roasting anything, slice the top off a head of garlic and drizzle on 1 tsp of olive or canola oil and then wrap in foil. Keep wrapped up in the fridge to throw in just about anything to pump up the flavour without too much fuss.

Creamy Chicken Casserole

2 cooked chicken breasts (leftover homemade or store-bought), chopped in to just smaller than bite size pieces (~1/4- 1/2  inch chunks)

2 cups whole wheat pasta, cooked al dente

2 cups cooked cubed butternut squash

1 cup canned or cooked white beans

2 cups lightened up creamy white sauce (see recipe below) with an extra 1-2 cloves of roasted garlic.

1/3 cup strong flavoured cheesed, grated ( I used a mix of old cheddar and parmesan)

Mix all your ingredients together in a together in a casserole dish (mine was 9x 12).

Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top.

Cook in a 400 oven for 30-40 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the top is starting to brown.

Lightened Up Creamy White Sauce

2 tsp butter or canola oil  (I suggest using the butter if you have it – it gives the sauce a flavour that’s hard to replicate with oil alone)

2 tbsp all purpose flour

3-4 cloves roasted garlic (see note re: substitutions)

2 cups skim or low fat milk

1 tbsp cornstarch

½ tsp pepper, more to taste

1/8-1/4 tsp salt

¼ tsp nutmeg

Melt the butter/oil over medium low heat, add the flour and use a spatula to mix together. Add the garlic and cook the mixture for about 2 minutes.

Add the skim milk and turn up the heat to medium high. Once the milk warms up, scoop out ¼ cup in to a small bowl. Add the cornstarch to the bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the mixture back to the pot and whisk together. Continue heating at a very gentle simmer (barely bubbling) for about 8-10 minutes, whisking now and then to keep it smooth.  Remove from the heat when it reaches the desired consistency.

The sauce is ready when it coats the back of a spoon without dripping off, feel free to cook a little longer for a thicker sauce.  The sauce is best used right away, however can be kept in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. It will clump a bit when cooled, so warm over medium low heat and whisk briskly to make it smooth again.