Cheesy Chipotle Chicken Pasta Casserole with Avocado
1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
½ cup coarsely chopped white onion
¾ teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, plus more to taste to season chicken
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste to season chicken
2 tablespoons sauce from chipotle in adobo, or to taste
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, seeded, or to taste, optional
6 to 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 lb. penne or elbow pasta
3 cups chicken broth, homemade or store bought
3 cups, 12 oz., grated melting cheese such as Oaxaca, Monterey Jack or Mozzarella
1 ripe Avocado from Mexico, halved, pitted, peeled and cut into slices, for garnish
Mexican cream, Latin-style cream, crème fraiche or sour cream. Optional for garnish
Place tomatoes and garlic in a medium or 3-quart saucepan and cover with water.
Set over medium-high heat and simmer until the tomatoes are thoroughly cooked and the skins have started to come off, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the tomatoes and garlic, along with ½ cup of the cooking liquid, to a blender or food processor. Allow to cool slightly, then add the onion, salt, pepper, adobo sauce and chili, and purée until smooth.
Sprinkle chicken with oregano; add salt and pepper to taste.
Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a large, deep saucepan or skillet set over medium high heat.
Once hot, sear the chicken thighs, about 2 to 3 minutes per side, until browned but not thoroughly cooked. Remove from skillet and set aside in a bowl.
Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil into the casserole and set over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the pasta.
Fry for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the pasta smells toasted and begins to brown, but do not let it burn. Pour the tomato purée over the pasta; it will spatter, so you may want to use the lid as a shield.
Stir, cover partially, and let the sauce cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally, until it darkens and cooks into a thick purée.
Nest the browned chicken on the pasta, pour the chicken broth on top, stir gently, cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce heat to low, and cook for 50 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
Remove the lid, sprinkle the cheese all over the pasta, place the casserole in the oven and bake from 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese has completely melted and begun to lightly brown. Serve hot.
Place the avocado slices across the top. Drizzle Mexican cream on top.