My cheesy Chicken Broccoli Pasta is a perfect recipe that the whole family will love. When you use shells pasta, it reminds you of your favorite childhood mac and cheese recipe. Adding the chicken and broccoli to this dish makes it an all-in-one meal that even the pickiest of eaters at your table will love.
CHICKEN BROCCOLI PASTA
There is nothing I love more than being able to make a meal that is easy to dish up in one bowl. Fewer dishes to wash, and easier for the kids to enjoy means a happier mom. Of course, kids love the idea of cheesy creamy macaroni and cheese, and using shell pasta has always been a fun way to dress up an otherwise simple recipe.
This is an update to my favorite creamy broccoli macaroni and cheese recipe. For this recipe, I decided to cook up simple chunks of chicken breast to mix into the pasta alongside the broccoli florets. I knew this was an easy way to get kids to eat vegetables, and the added protein makes it a whole meal in one bowl.
DO I HAVE TO USE SHELLS FOR THIS CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI PASTA?
You can use any pasta for this recipe. I do, however, prefer pasta that is a bit more textured or allows for the sauce to really stick to the noodles. Cheese sauce works well with shell pasta since it has tons of grooves and pockets to fill with the sauce. This is why I prefer it over other pasta.
Some good options to use would be penne, elbow macaroni, rigatoni, and fusilli. You can use whatever pasta you prefer. The real secret to this recipe is in the well-seasoned chicken and deliciously creamy cheese sauce.
CAN THIS PASTA RECIPE BE FROZEN?
One of my favorite things to do with an easy to make pasta dish is to prepare extra and freeze for later. On busy weeknights, it is nice to have extra healthy homemade meals in the freezer. I love cooking, but I know there are times when my schedule doesn't allow enough time to make a homemade meal for every meal. That's when extra servings of a favorite meal come in handy.
To freeze leftovers or extra servings of this pasta dish, I recommend putting individual servings into airtight freezer storage containers. I love using the Pyrex glass containers as they are perfectly portioned, and are great for reusing over and over again.
CAN I MAKE THIS A VEGETARIAN RECIPE?
If you are vegetarian but still want added protein in your pasta recipe, you can easily add in your favorite brand of fake chicken. There are many ready-made frozen "chicken" products available to choose from. You can also use fried tofu in this recipe or on the side as a way to add more protein without having actual meat in the recipe.
You do not have to add extra protein to this recipe to make it a full meal. It is delicious by itself. However, adding an extra protein like chicken or even tofu will help stretch the pasta further. As a result, this meal can feed more people, or provide more than one full meal for your family.
CAN I USE OTHER VEGETABLES FOR THIS CHICKEN BROCCOLI PASTA?
Of course, you can! There are so many vegetables that pair well with chicken and pasta. I love broccoli but also have made this with snow peas, bell peppers, green peas, and even cauliflower. When in season, I also love asparagus as a great option with tons of nutty flavor that pairs beautifully with this recipe.
The addition of vegetables is both for flavor and added fiber. If your family or children are picky eaters, pick their favorite veggie to mix into this recipe. You can even shred carrots or zucchini and mix them into this recipe to add texture and nutrients.
- Chicken breasts
- Chicken broth
- Sharp cheddar cheese
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN BROCCOLI PASTA
To make this cheesy pasta with chicken and broccoli, you will begin by cooking the pasta according to package directions. Bring water to a boil, drop in your pasta and cook until al dente. You will drain the pasta and set it aside for later.
While the pasta is cooking, you will begin cooking the chicken breast chunks. You can mix together seasoning and roll the chicken in it, or simply sprinkle over all sides of the chicken. Then, you will cook in a skillet over medium heat until the chicken is done and browned on all sides.
In a saucepan, you will begin making a roux as the base of your cheese sauce. Mix in the cheeses and spices as directed, then stir into the cooked pasta.
Add in cooked pasta and the broccoli, and stir to combine. Finish by cooking for an additional 4-5 minutes before serving.
Top the pasta with additional shredded cheese, black pepper, or even a bit of grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
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MORE CHEESY PASTA RECIPES
I love a great mac and cheese recipe. Adding in the chicken and broccoli in this recipe is a perfect meal, but you may also want to serve a pasta dish as a side to your proteins. There are so many variations on a simple homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, and I have explored many of them. Below are some of my favorite recipes for you to bookmark and save for another day.
- One-Pot Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese
- Jalapeno Cheddar Mac 'N Cheese
- Easy Cajun Chicken Mac N' Cheese
- Creamy Spinach Pasta Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Shells
- 8 oz medium pasta shells
- 3 cups broccoli florets
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 1/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- In a large pot, cook pasta according to the instructions on the package. In the last 3 minutes of cooking, add broccoli. When fork tender, drain pasta and broccoli. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine salt, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper. Add chicken pieces to the rub tossing to coat.
- Add olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Brown chicken on all sides, approximately 4 to 5 minutes total. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt butter. Once melted, add flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly.
- Whisk in milk, chicken broth and remainder of ingredients: garlic powder, black pepper, salt and cheddar cheese and stir until the cheese is melted.
- Bring to a simmer and cook until bubbling and thick, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add in the pasta, broccoli and chicken. Stir to combine and cook for another 5 minutes. remove from heat and serve.
- You can use any type of pasta for this recipe.
- Don't put oil in your pasta water! You'll just end up with greasy pasta.
- For the sauce, you can use any fat content you’d like, the higher fat content, the creamier it will be.
- Try adding a pinch of nutmeg to the sauce, it really adds another flavor dimension!
- When filling your pot to cook the pasta, use enough water that once the noodles begin to cook and expand, there will still be plenty of room for the pasta to move freely.
- Prevent your pasta from sticking together by stirring it immediately after you drop it in.
- Drain your pasta enough to remove most of the water, however don’t let drained pasta sit and dry off, as the pasta will become too firm.
- You can mix together seasoning and roll the chicken in it, or simply sprinkle over all sides of the chicken.
- Top the pasta with additional shredded cheese, black pepper, or even a bit of grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
- Ideally shred your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese doesn't melt well.
- This dish can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 – 5 days.