Primal Chicken Spaghetti

Primal

Chicken spaghetti is comfort food at its best and worst. It has that comforting casserole flavor that’s mild, but not bland, and a creamy, baked texture. But that’s where the goodness stops. Layers of spaghetti noodles, canned cream of mushroom soup and gooey cheese make chicken spaghetti a meal to be avoided at all costs.

But what if chicken spaghetti could be remade into a healthy casserole that tastes really similar the traditional recipe? In the case of chicken spaghetti, this means the casserole should be creamy but not taste like coconut milk, and have the texture of noodles without tasting like (spaghetti) squash. Both of these things can be achieved by using celery root.

Celery root has a neutral flavor and color. It can be turned into a creamy puree or cut into noodle-like matchsticks. In this recipe, it’s a perfect stand-in for cream of mushroom soup, the glue that binds chicken spaghetti together. It’s also a perfect stand-in for noodles.

Must cheese be forsaken entirely? It’s hard to imagine chicken spaghetti without it. If you don’t do dairy at all, then yeah, you can leave it out. But if you don’t mind a little bit of unpasteurized, aged cheddar, then this dish will taste better for it.

You might have to make this recipe to believe it – Primal chicken spaghetti really does taste like chicken spaghetti should (only better). It’s healthy and comforting. The best of both worlds.

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (white and/or dark meat) (400 g)
  • 2 celery roots (about 12 oz/340 g each)
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (60 ml)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (45 g)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 cup grated unpasteurized, aged Cheddar (90 g)
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (1.2 ml)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (1.2 ml)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 ºF/177 ºC.

Use a paring knife to trim the skin off each of the celery roots. Cut the roots into sheets 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick, trimming the sides to make squares or rectangles (keep the scraps). Then cut the sheets into noodles that are ¼” (6 mm) wide.

Celery Root

Cut Celery Root

Toss the celery root noodles into a pot of boiling water and cook just until fork tender, but not mushy. This should take not much more than 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Gather up all the misshapen scraps of celery root that are leftover and cut them into evenly sized pieces, so they’ll cook evenly. Toss the pieces into a pot of boiling water. Cook until very soft, then drain. Put the cooked pieces in the food processor with the chicken broth and 2 tablespoons/30 g of the butter. Puree until very smooth. Add salt to taste. Set aside.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and sauté a few minutes more.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, celery root noodles, onion and bell peppers, cheddar cheese, cayenne and salt. Gently stir in the celery root puree (hopefully you have close to 1 cup of puree). Add more salt as needed, so the dish has ample flavor.

Smooth the mixture out into an 8×8 square (2L/2 quart) baking dish. If you like, sprinkle another ½ cup/45 g grated cheese on top.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until warm and bubbly.

Chicken Spaghetti 1

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23 thoughts on “Primal Chicken Spaghetti”

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  1. I love celery root noodles (I use my spiralizer to make them) but never thought of incorporating it into a “cream” sauce. Genius! This looks like more of a fall/winter dish to me though… hope I remember it when the weather changes!

    1. Regarding the spiralizer, you beat me to it. My store carries celery root and more often than not the exterior has some mold,which can be cut away. Plus if one is frugal and outspoken the mold is a great case to go to customer service for a discount

  2. Yummy! Can’t wait for that weather change so I CAN make this!

    1. Weather? Change? If you like something, why would you necessarily wait until a change of seasons? You have air conditioning, I assume…

      1. eh, we don’t have air conditioning and with a bay window that gets direct sunlight, it gets HOT in our condo on a 70+ degree day. There have been several days where I refuse to turn the oven on…

  3. This looks great. I imagine this would work with seafood too.

  4. I’ve always avoided celery root because it has the word celery in it and smells like celery, which is the most unholy food in my personal religion.
    When you say it has a “neutral flavor,” does that mean “indistinguishable from potatoes” or “tastes like celery, which I find unobjectionable”?
    Because I’ve known people before who don’t appreciate the horror of celery, and even insist that it tastes like nothing.
    I wouldn’t want to ruin a bunch of perfectly good chicken, you know.

    1. This wouldn’t be my cuppa tea either. Celery root is okay, but not that much. I’m also not keen on substitute foods. If I want a little spaghetti once in a while (which is rare indeed), I’d rather just eat a small portion of the real thing and chalk it up to the 80/20 rule.

      80/20 (or 90/10) is a good rule to live by. It’s Paleo enough to suit my body, but I don’t become annoyingly compulsive about what I eat.

      1. I have to say, I actually prefer spaghetti squash to spaghetti. It tastes more flavourful and “alive” to me…looking forward to seeing whether a celery root version feels the same.

    2. I hate celery, too. But celery root doesn’t taste like celery to me.

  5. Looks amazing! Personally, I’ve never had the “real” chicken spaghetti, so I won’t know how this primal version measures up. But I’ve been wanting a recipe featuring celery root, and this absolutely does the trick. We’ll likely go easy on the cheese…maybe omitting except for some grated hard sheep or goat cheese on top. But I’m guessing it will still satisfy my husband’s love for a big plate of (somewhat) gooey comfort food. A nice alternative to our stand-by spaghetti squash meals!

  6. I’m always appreciative of any recipes that give us ideas on how to use “not-so-popular” foods/veggies in a creative way as this recipe does. Thanks for some ideas that I hadn’t thought of especially since celery is one of my favorite things!

    Amazing how we’re all so different in our choice of foods! I’ll cut off the end of a store-bought stalk of celery and eat it plain. To me it’s like the best part of the stalk. In fact, I’ll look for a stalk of celery that has the biggest root part on it. No pot of bone broth in this household goes without some celery in it

    I also really love the leaves and the tender shoots at the top of the stalks. I have to fight our pet rabbit for them – LOL.

  7. Sounds great but I’m curious about the provenance. I’ve never heard of a dish called chicken spaghetti. Can someone enlighten me? Is it a Midwestern thing? Like hot dish?

    1. It is similar to turkey tetrazzini. It is indeed a ” hot dish” or a casserole .

    2. It’s a huge staple in Midwestern households. My family (from KC and Dallas) and my wife’s (from West Texas) grew up on chicken spaghetti. See also Hamburger Helper, Sloppy Joe’s, tuna casserole, Kraft mac and cheese with hot dogs/ham added, and so on. Ie, quick, easy caloric-heavy meals to feed many kids at a low cost. My wife still drools over this dish, so I’ll be giving this recipe a try.

  8. Never tried celery root noodles, but the whole dish sounds delicious! Adding to my next shopping list, looks like it will compliment the wet weather we’re having here!

  9. I don’t like celery, but have found that cooked in a stew it adds a distinct depth of flavour which is not at all like its raw taste. I’ve also been making soups for years with celeriac in them, without realising that celeriac is the root of celery, because there’s no similarity in the taste. This looks a good recipe which I will definitely enjoy. Whether or not you like celery is irrelevant to whether you will like this dish.

  10. Sounds worth trying to me. I would add a couple cloves of minced garlic and a cup or so of chopped mushrooms, though. Just because you are avoiding cram ‘o mushroom soup is no reason to avoid mushrooms… but you knew that! And I normally have chopped celery and some olives in chicken spaghetti. I don’t know if the celery is needed with the celery root, but I would add olives, as well. That may not be so traditional, but it add another dimension.

  11. Made this tonight, without the dairy, and it was amazing. Even my kids ate it, which is huge because they almost never eat foods combined together like this. This is a great use for leftover chicken, btw.

  12. We’re new to Paleo and have an open mind and go for it attitude. I’m so willing to try this. I’m amaze how great we feel. this is a recipe worth trying. Never know until ya do!

  13. Why have I never thought of using celery root for noodles? I love it in a roasted veg mix, and now I can try it this way too.

  14. I am wondering if rutabaga would work in place of celery root?

  15. Made this for supper last night, but I did change a couple things. It was delicious and even better reheated for breakfast!

    I had very few trimmings so didn’t have much of the sauce. As I do eat dairy, I threw in some crème fraise to make it saucier. Also added sautéed mushrooms like someone suggested.

    When I first read the recipe, I thought the pureed celeriac sounded nasty. Couldn’t have been more wrong. It was amazing. I added in some sautéed mushrooms and guess what, it tasted just like mushroom soup! I’m going to try using it for sauce to bake pork chops in!