My childhood pasta dishes combined chicken or ground beef, canned pimentos, lots of cheese. Oh, and spaghetti broken into little pieces before cooking. (OK, Lisa, I can see you out there cringing. You the Pasta Purist who warned us not to put pepper on our dishes that night at Rocco's... You were right. I promise I don't pepper the spaghetti or break it up any longer.)
The casserole recipes in my mother's church's cookbook (c. 1969) mostly call for canned soup--mushroom, celery, etc.-- depending on the cook. But I don't keep that dreaded ingredient in my cupboard these days so I decided to upgrade. Or downgrade, depending on your POV.
Here it is-
Mama's Good-for-You Chicken Spaghetti Casserole.
Cook two chicken breasts, bone-in, in stock until done. Cut in bite-size pieces.
Cook a handful of thin whole wheat spaghetti until al dente, preferably in the leftover stock.
Saute one onion and a couple of small sweet peppers.
Mix the whole thing up, adding stock to keep it moist. Add a can of Rotel tomatoes if you're lucky enough to live where they can easily be found. Throw in some cheddar cheese, if you'd like.
Season to taste.
Put in casserole dish, top with more cheese. Bake till the inside is hot.
(These days a lot of my recipes remind me of the first cookbook I ever owned. My grandmother gave me a copy of The I-Hate-To-Cook Cookbook. The grandmother who had no clue how to cook.)
Of course, there's a writing connection to my forthcoming children's novel. Chicken spaghetti makes an appearance at the dinner table, along with this, spoken by the young narrator:
"She'll like your chicken spaghetti.
Don't all Yankees like spaghetti?"