chicken enchilada casserole

I have an unabashed love for Mexican food. But who doesn’t?

For the hubs and I, we get our Mexican fix from several different local joints around town – we have a place for excellent margaritas and good food, a place for good margaritas and amazing food, and a place for amazing margaritas and amazing fish tacos. Depending on our hunger {or thirst} cues, one of said places often makes the cut.

But what does one do when you’re craving enchilada casserole?

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I can’t remember what struck that particular chord in me not long ago, but I had such an intense craving for an enchilada-style casserole that I just could not shake it. So imagine my surprise when this recipe found its way, seemingly right into my hands, not long ago! I immediately bookmarked it and knew that it would make a dinner appearance as soon as I could make it happen.

Luckily, a week-long deluge of rain {followed by an equally rainy weekend} presented the perfect opportunity. A wet Sunday afternoon set the tone for dinner, and yes…it was time for me to make this. I rolled up my sleeves and set to work, happily bumping around my tiny kitchen, working away and rolling tortillas up with delicious filling.

The beauty of this dish is multifold…it requires few pieces of equipment, utilizes ingredients most of us have on hand, comes together in no time, and can be made to fit anyone’s taste buds. I stuck pretty closely to the original recipe, but as I sit here typing, my mind wanders to the idea of using shredded pork instead of chicken, crumbled queso fresco instead of shredded Mexican blend cheese, mixing pico de gallo in with the enchilada sauce, incorporating other vegetables into the topping…you see where I’m going with this.

It’s dishes like this that keep me coming back for more, both seconds at dinnertime and into my repertoire of favorite recipes. Enjoy! And do share any variations you might come up with when you prepare it – I’d love to hear from you!

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Chicken Enchilada Casserole {recipe adapted from The Kitchn}

Easy enough to throw together even on the busiest of nights, this chicken enchilada casserole will leave you feeling satisfied and happy! Can be customized to fit any taste buds, or particular diet {sugar-, dairy-, gluten-free, etc.}. Leftovers freeze beautifully, or can be prepared and frozen in advance.

Ingredients:

1 {15-ounce can} red enchilada sauce *whatever brand you prefer is fine!

10-15 corn tortillas, set out to room temperature

1 lb. cooked shredded chicken* {can be from a rotisserie chicken; 2-3 cooked chicken breasts; or pressure-cooker chicken}

1 {4-ounce can} diced green chiles

1 to 1-1/2 cups Mexican style shredded cheese

1 medium red pepper, sliced into strips

1 onion, sliced into strips

optional toppings: sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, pico de gallo, salsa, sliced avocado, guacamole, shredded lettuce, etc.

*I prefer to toss the chicken with a bit of seasonings, done to taste – here, I used: salt and pepper, chili powder, onion powder, oregano, garlic powder, and cumin. Feel free to do so according to your preference! 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly grease an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Ladle enough of the enchilada sauce into the dish to barely cover the bottom in a thin layer of sauce – about 1/4 cup or so. Set dish aside, but within reaching distance.

On a covered work surface, begin assembling the enchiladas. Lay one tortilla out, and spread down the center {no more than 2-3 Tbsp.} the shredded chicken. Top with a small scoop of the diced green chili. Gently roll the enchilada up and place it seam side down in the casserole dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling mixtures, until you cannot fit any more into the dish.

One the casserole dish is full, sprinkle on the sliced onion and red pepper. Cover completely with remaining enchilada sauce, ensuring that all the surface area is covered. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Portion out and assemble with desired toppings. Enjoy!

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philly mac n’ cheese

From a culinary standpoint, birthday celebrations are a big deal in our house. I look forward to them every year {more so the hub’s birthday than my own} because not only are they are good reason to pull out a good bottle of wine, but because we tend to go over the top in terms of dinner.

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We celebrated the hub’s birthday not long ago, and we spent quite some time trying to figure out what kind of meal to prepare. Every year, I let him decide on exactly what it is he wants. No limits, no rules – his dinner wish {and dessert!} is my command. It’s pretty much a win-win for both of us; he gets a meal of his own creation, and I get to have fun whipping it up in the kitchen!

When he settled on the more traditional mac n’ cheese, I asked him to come up with some sort of twist on it, sort of a way to spice it up a bit. We bounced ideas back and forth…flavor combinations, dishes that he likes, we we somehow steered the conversation to sandwiches.

“What about a philly?”  I asked him. His eyes lit up, and I knew we had found the dish of the year. The end result? – a combination of a few staple dishes in my repertoire, with some funky additions that make it perfect for him. It’s an indulgent dish, and you bet that we will be bringing this out again once the cooler autumn months come around.

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Enjoy!

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Philly Mac n’ Cheese {recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma}

Definitely one of the more creative birthday dishes we’ve dreamed up over the past few years, this mac n’ cheese hits all the notes of a classic cheese steak sandwich: perfectly loaded with cheese, traditional vegetable add-ons, and of course…oh-so indulgent. 

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. dried pasta, such as cavatappi

non-stick cooking spray

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup milk of choice

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock

3/4 cup freshly shredded Gruyere cheese

3/4 cup freshly shredded champagne cheddar cheese {if not available, feel free to swap out with extra sharp cheddar}

1 package frozen spinach {cooked, drained, and cooled}

2 cups baby portabella mushrooms

2 cups chicken {cooked, cooled, and shredded}

1/8 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/8 cup Panko {Japanese bread crumbs}

olive oil, for sauteeing the mushrooms

salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl, and set aside.

In a small nonstick skillet, cook the mushrooms with a splash of olive oil until lightly sauteed, about 5-7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and melt he butter. Add the cornstarch and cook, stirring well, until the cornstarch is thoroughly incorporated, about 1 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk, chicken stock, and an generous pinch of salt; bring to a boil. Simmer, whisking frequently to smooth out any lumps, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add a pinch of pepper and stir to incorporate. Slowly add in both the Gruyere and champagne cheddar cheese, making to sure combine thoroughly.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir well. Next, fold in the spinach, mushrooms, and chicken. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with the Parmesan and Panko. Bake until the top is lightly browned and the sauce is bubbly, about 25-30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with a side of roasted vegetables {we opted for asparagus!}.

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Vegas.com – A Challenge!

Awhile back, y’all might remember that my friends over at vegas.com provided me with an opportunity…a “challenge” if you will. I was asked to pick a dish from one of the famous Las Vegas hotels, and put my own unique twist on it. In typical Alicia fashion, I dove in head first, excited to stretch my culinary legs and see what I could come up with!

for those of you who might want to peak back, here’s my dish!

So I couldn’t be more excited to announce today that I was offered the opportunity to do it again! This time, we had a different list of restaurants to choose from. Immediately, a ‘roast chicken’ dish caught my eye. Something so simple, but offers endless possibilities. My brain started working and, after a few days of rolling ideas around, I finally got the light bulb – shepherd’s pie!

Now, before I go any further; this was no ordinary roast chicken dish. We’re talking gorgeous sauces, fine mushrooms, season vegetables. The whole nine yards. I mean, it’s Vegas after all! So I thought it would be a lot of fun to make the ingredients from the Vegas dish mimic the appearance of an actual shepherd’s pie. Fun, right?

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Perfectly seasoned ground chicken replaces the traditional beef.

Diced asparagus looks a lot like peas!

Mushrooms and onions add an earthy note to the dish, which pairs oh-so-nicely with the white wine that we’re incorporating into the base of the dish.

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And of course, no shepherd’s pie is complete without a generous spread of mashed potatoes..but I went rogue and used my smashed cauliflower! Delicious.

This is one dish you’ll want to recreate over and over, I promise. After the first bite, the hubs proclaimed it “one of the best casseroles he’s ever had.” The proof is in the pudding…er, casserole.

Here we go!

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Vegas-Style Shepherd’s Pie

Never one to turn down a challenge, I decided on making some fun modifications to one of Vegas’ most famous restaurants; I took their classic roast chicken recipe and made it my own! 

Ingredients:

smashed cauliflower {here’s my go-to recipe…so quick and simple!}

1 lb. ground chicken {I used extra lean, because it was what I had on hand}

1 large onion, finely diced

1 box of baby portabello mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 lb. asparagus, washed and sliced into medallions

1/4 cup white wine {you can use chicken stock, for an alcohol-free version}

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper, to taste

olive oil for coating the pan

1/2 – 1 cup of cheese {your preference; this will be used for the topping}

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a glass 8″ x 8″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside for later.

Add a drizzle of olive oil into the bottom of a large nonstick saute pan. Bring up to medium heat; once the olive oil is sizzling, and in the ground chicken. Use a wooden spoon to break into pieces, and cook until done. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Without cleaning the pan, add in the diced onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add in the garlic powder. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent and beginning to soften slightly, about 7-10 minutes. Add in the white wine and bring the heat up to high {this will help cook off the alcohol, as well as reduce the liquid}. Add in the asparagus, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Lastly, add in the mushrooms and cook only until they begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes.

Prepare the casserole: place the cooked chicken into the bottom of your prepared baking dish. Next, top with the onion/asparagus/mushroom mixture. Evenly dollop the smashed cauliflower on top, making sure to seal in the edges. Lastly, top with the desired amount and type of cheese.

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Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbly and the top is beginning to brown slightly. For additional crunch, turn the broiler on and let it go an additional 1-2 minutes.

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Enjoy!

shepherd’s pie

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than with a delicious and hearty meal?

Shepherd’s Pie has long been a favorite in our household; it’s easy to prepare, utilizes common ingredients most of us have on hand, and can be stretched to feed anywhere from a few people to an entire army. I love sitting down to a piping hot serving after a long day at work; the aromas are so therapeutic, and seeing the steam wafting from the bowl just brings about the most soothing feeling.

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When I decided to make this, I decided to veer slightly from tradition, but still maintain the integrity of the dish. After all, you can only adjust a recipe so much before it takes on an entirely new face, no? So rather than go all crazy and try to tweak every little aspect, I picked the common denominators – the ground meat and the usual mashed potatoes – and decided to just play around with those.

The result? Lean ground turkey and mashed cauliflower!

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This take is full of flavor, texture, and…it just makes you feel good. In my humble opinion, that is the best kind of dinner – fresh, simple, and leaves you feeling good; maybe wanting more, or…maybe just reach for a Guinness and call it a night. Your call!

Slainte!

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Shepherd’s Pie {adapted from Epicurious}

What better way to ring in the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day than with a traditional dish? Quintessential in our household, this will satisfy the pickiest of palettes. The best part? – it’s healthy and good for you!

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. ground meat {I used a 93% lean ground turkey – but feel free to use ground beef, ground lamb, etc.}

1 to 1-1/2 cups tomato sauce

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 Tbsp. dried parsley

1 to 1-1/2 cups frozen peas, cooked and cooled slightly

mashed cauliflower {here’s my version!}

salt and pepper, to taste

optional: grated cheese of your choice for topping 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a glass baking dish {8″x 8″ or 9″x 9″} with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Alternatively, like I did, you could use two individual baking dishes.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil, then add the onion, carrot, garlic and meat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain the fat and then add the tomato sauce, tomato paste and herbs. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.

In the baking dish{es}, layer in the meat mixture, then the cooked peas, and finally top with the meat mixture. Garnish as you like with cheese.

Bake until golden brown and bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes.

butternut squash mac & cheese

Vegetables never cease to amaze me. Did you ever imagine that something so simple can be elevated into, quite possibly, one of the smoothest and creamiest sauces you’ve ever tasted?

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I had no idea, before tasting this dish, that butternut squash could be easily whipped up into the base for creamy mac and cheese. In fact, to say I was surprised is an understatement. But I think that that is what makes cooking so fun! You can find new and unusual uses for items that would traditionally not work. This recipe proves that butternut squash can go above and beyond simply being roasted as a side dish; it becomes the star.

We’re taking a tried and true mac and cheese recipe today and elevating it not only flavor-wise, but packing it full of healthy goodness. The use of pureed squash replaces several cups of cheddar cheese typically found in such a dish. Tangy, rich blue cheese {in a much less amount} will pack in flavor and just the right amount of fat, making it perfectly balanced. Cubed pieces of roasted squash and halved tomatoes are folded into the casserole, letting us reduce the amount of pasta {and carbs} that would normally be used. A hefty dose of spices – sage, chili flake, pepper – satisfies our taste buds. This is a perfectly balanced dish, and comes together in no time. Grab your fork and let’s dive in, shall we?

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Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese {recipe adpated, minimally, from Daily Unadventures in Cooking}

An unusually healthy twist on a classic dish, this mac and cheese recipe is sure to please even the most old-fashioned palate. Butternut squash puree makes up the body of the cheese sauce, with creamy blue cheese elevating its flavor to an even higher level. Additionally, folding in more vegetables reduces the amount of pasta needed, making this a dish you can enjoy without all the guilt. 

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp. chili flakes

1 tbsp. flour

2-1/4 cups milk {I used 1%}

2 cups butternut squash puree

2 cups roasted butternut squash, diced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

6 ounces blue cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Put a big pot of water on to boil, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In the meantime, start your sauce.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the onions, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Sweat out over low heat until sweet and tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic, sage and chili flakes and continue sweating until garlic is softened, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle the flour on top of the garlic and onion mixture and stir it in. Cook the mixture over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk 1/4 cup at a time, waiting until it starts simmering before stirring in the next back. Whisk in the squash, then lastly, fold in the blue cheese. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, undercooking slightly. Drain. Fold the pasta together with the sauce, and add in the halved tomatoes and cubed butternut squash. Transfer to a greased casserole dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Serve hot, atop a bed of fresh greens.

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butternut squash enchilada casserole

This is a rainbow of colors, flavors, and deliciousness…all layered up into one glorious casserole.

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For me, it’s simply impossible to not get excited about a dish when it has so many colors, flavors and textures. I happened upon a large stash of butternut squash not too long ago, and rather than going my usual course of roasting {for a side dish} or pureeing {soup style}, I knew I had to try something different. In the past, I’ve had great success incorporating it into mac-&-cheese recipes, but it just didn’t feel right. With unseasonably warm weather, I was craving something hearty but not heavy, light but full of flavor.

I set about searching for the perfect casserole, and when I stumbled upon the recipe for what I’m sharing today, I knew I had found a winner. This casserole is the perfect one to start for your season of autumnal flavors – you’re still using fresh produce {corn, tomatoes, peppers, and onions} but starting to introduce the flavors of fall; creamy beans, luscious squash and bolder spices.

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This dish is more or less a one-pot wonder; very little preparation is required, too! I like to roast the squash ahead of time {say, the night before I plan on making it} so that it is ready and waiting for me and not the other way around. Simply prep, assemble, bake and voila! – dinner is served.

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Butternut Squash Enchilada Casserole {recipe adapted from Making Thyme for Health}

An unusual but delicious option to use up an overabundance of butternut squash, this casserole is a dream for any lover of Mexican-style cuisine! Not to mention, it’s a great way to pack in a vegetable punch.

Ingredients:

1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 onion, sliced

1/2 a large red pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small can of diced green chilis

1 {15-ounce} can of black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups of corn

2 cups salsa

6 large tortillas, quartered

1-1/2 cups shredded cheese {optional}

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the diced butternut squash on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cumin until evenly distributed. Roast for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until squash is tender. Remove from oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees.

In a large non-stick skillet, drizzle in olive oil. Add in onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add in the corn and red pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, or until slightly tender. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder and oregano. Transfer to bowl and set aside, allowing to cool slightly.

Into the same bowl as your sauteed vegetables, add in the diced green chilis, drained black beans, and one cup of the salsa. Toss gently to combine.

Spray a glass baking dish, and begin to assemble the casserole. Spread 1/3 cup of the remaining salsa along the bottom, then cover with a layer of tortillas. Tops with 1/3 of the roasted vegetables and then 1/2 cup of cheese.

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Layer two more tortillas on top of the vegetables, then top with 1/3 cup of salsa, then another 1/3 of the roasted vegetables, then 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.

Lastly, layer two more tortillas, the last 1/3 cup of salsa and the last 1/3 of the vegetables on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then cut into squares and serve. Top with sliced avocado, plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream. Enjoy!

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**don’t feel limited to the ingredients listed out here – use what you have on hand! It doesn’t get much easier than that. I also think that, should it fancy you, a bit of seasoned taco meat {be it chicken, beef, bison, etc.} would make a wonderful addition**

chicken divan

First and foremost, wishing the happiest of Mother’s Day to all you wonderful mothers out there – and especially to my own Momma : ) It goes without saying that I wouldn’t be here today, doing {& cooking!} what I love, if it wasn’t for her constant encouragement!

With that being said, I thought it would be most appropriate to dedicate a recipe, albeit a favorite one of my mom’s, here in honor of her.

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Chicken Divan is one of those meals that, for me at least, holds wonderful memories of my childhood. We were allowed on our birthday, each year, to pick out whatever meal and dessert that we wanted, and my mom would whip it up for dinner. It was fabulous – and I always, without a doubt, chose this meal. I kid you not when I say that I requested this at least 5 or 6 years in a row…it’s just that good. Because honestly, is there a better combination of chicken/brocooli/cheese/cream sauce that you can think of? I should think not, especially when it’s made just for you.

Flash forward some 15 odd years or so later; this meal is still one of my favorites. It always seemed so labor intensive when I was younger, but with several years of copious kitchen time under my belt, this particular meal is actually fairly easy to throw together. A “one dish” casserole meal, if you prefer.

But, because it’s me, I’ve made it a little bit more laborious than its traditional counterpart {but only by a few minutes or so, I promise!}. This is still easy to make after a long day of work, even if you choose to make the sauce I’ve dictated out below. We all know by now that I love a good and healthy tofu-based sauce, so I’ve gone ahead and replaced the traditional sauce {condensed soup, sour cream, and milk} with a thick and creamy sauce of tofu, sauteed onions/garlic, and bountiful herbs. With its luxurious mouth feel, it beautifully coats each piece of chicken and broccoli in this casserole, and blends so delightfully with the bed of rice you serve this atop of.

Go ahead and give this dish a try – not to toot my own horn here, dears….but this is definitely a “winner winner, chicken dinner.”

xx

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Chicken Divan

Ingredients:

1 lb. organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts {fully cooked and shredded}

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large head of broccoli, blanched {or keep it easy and use a steamer bag – I adore these}

14 oz. firm tofu*

1/4 to 1/2 C. low sodium chicken stock

1 C. bread crumbs

grated cheese, to suit your taste {I go between 1 to 1-1/2 cups}

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

dried herbs…such as rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, etc. {optional}

Rice, or your pasta of choice, for serving

 

To Prepare:

Precook the chicken

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum {to ensure easy clean up} and place chicken atop. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn to the other side, and with clean hands, season the other side. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear. Set aside to cool, then shred using your hands or forks when it is cool enough to handle. Set aside.

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Keep oven temperature at 375 degrees.

Prepare the sauce

Set a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drizzle with a turn or two of olive oil, and when hot enough {the oil will ripple and spatter slightly} add in the garlic and onions. Season with salt and pepper  and cook until the onions become translucent and the garlic has rendered out some of its spicy notes.

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Drain and cube up your firm tofu, and place into the base of a large food processor {I have a 14 cup…talk about a great wedding present!}. Add in the sauteed onion/garlic mixture, chicken stock {starting with a 1/4 cup and adding in more only as necessary} and begin to process. Let it initially go for 3-5 minutes, then remove the lid and scrape down the sides. Taste and adjust for seasoning – salt and pepper is a must, and sometimes I like to crush up some dried herbs and add in for another layer of flavor. Let the mixture process together for another 3-5 minutes. You want your resulting sauce to be extremely creamy and free of lumps.

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Build the casserole

Spray a 9 x 13 glass casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread a thin layer of the white sauce on the bottom of the dish, then layer in the chicken and broccoli. Add in the remaining sauce {feel free to give it a good swirl in the dish, allowing for the sauce to coat all sides of the chicken and broccoli, and get into the nooks and crannies}. Sprinkle with cheese and bread crumbs, then drizzle with olive oil to help it crisp up.

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Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges begin to bubble and the top is a beautiful golden brown.

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Serve atop rice or your favorite pasta alternative! I’ve had great success using my trusty spaghetti squash “pasta” as well.

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*next time, I may double the amount of tofu, so that there is a bit more of the sauce throughout the casserole. Feel free to adjust, suiting to your taste and preference!