Creamy Broccoli Chicken Penne

Recipes that appeal to both kids and adults can be hard to find. This recipe for Creamy Broccoli Chicken Penne works for both in our house. It’s got double cheese with both cream cheese and Parmesan cheese, which always seems to make the kids happy. Sometimes I sprinkle a little extra Parmesan on their plates before I serve just to make sure they know there’s cheese in the dish! Isn’t it funny how a little cheese makes vegetables like broccoli more acceptable to our picky eaters?

Pasta dishes can be a bit heavy sometimes, which is why I like recipes like this that keep things a little lighter while not sacrificing taste. The chicken stock and cream cheese sauce is thin and coats the pasta perfectly without weighing it down. You get all the taste of a really decadent pasta sauce without all the guilt.

I’m a sucker for a good pan sauce. I experimented with this sauce to tweak it just the way I like it, but your tastes may vary so feel free to experiment. If you like a bit more heat, some red pepper flakes would be great, as would some cayenne or paprika. Or, if you like seasoning salt or garlic salt, you could certainly work them into this recipe where you’d like. Lemon juice suited my palate a little better with this sauce, but if you’d like something a bit more sophisticated, deglazing the pan with 2-3 tablespoons of white wine after cooking the chicken and before adding the garlic would be a really delicious choice.

Chicken and broccoli, cooked and set aside.

Frozen broccoli is one of my favorite things to keep on hand. It’s a great addition to a lot of casseroles and rice and pasta dishes. I find that you don’t notice so much that it isn’t fresh when it’s mixed in with a good sauce. If you’d prefer fresh, or just have some on hand, I would absolutely encourage you to use it. You may not need to cook fresh broccoli for quite as long as frozen, so keep an eye on the skillet if you make that substitution and cook it to whatever doneness suits you best.

Creamy Broccoli Chicken Penne

3 from 18 votes
Recipe by Add Recipes
Servings

6

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 Chicken breasts; boneless, skinless

  • 1 package Broccoli florets, frozen (12-16oz)

  • 1 lb Penne

  • 1 1/2 cup Chicken stock

  • 4 oz Cream cheese

  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil

  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced or microplaned

  • 1 tablespoon Lemon juice, fresh

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning, divided

  • 1 teaspoon Salt

  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  • Dice chicken breasts into bite sized cubes, season chicken with 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning, and salt & pepper to taste.
  • Place pot of pasta water on to boil, according to penne package directions.
  • Heat oil in large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add diced chicken breasts to skillet. Cook until golden brown and just cooked through, or internal temperature of 180° F (82° C). Remove cooked chicken from skillet and set aside on separate plate.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low to medium. Add garlic, chicken stock, and remaining 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning to skillet. Stir briefly to pick up bits of cooked chicken from bottom of skillet. Add frozen broccoli and cover. Cook covered 4-6 minutes, or until broccoli is cooked to desired doneness. Remove broccoli from pan to plate where chicken is set aside.
  • Add penne to pot of boiling water. Cook according to package directions, but cook 1-2 minutes less than package directions.
  • Meanwhile, in the large skillet over medium-low heat, add cream cheese and stir into chicken stock mixture. Once cream cheese has melted into sauce, add Parmesan cheese and salt. (If chicken stock reduced too much while cooking broccoli for sauce to form, add a bit of pasta water, about 1/4 cup at a time, to loosen sauce). Let sauce simmer on medium-low while pasta finishes cooking.
  • Once penne is cooked to al dente, drain and add to skillet. Stir into sauce and let pasta finish cooking 1-2 minutes in sauce.
  • Add lemon juice and fresh black pepper to taste. Stir. Return broccoli and chicken to skillet with penne. Stir to combine; allow chicken and broccoli to reheat in skillet (about 1 minute). Serve.

Notes

  • Block style cream cheese is recommended for this recipe. “Whipped” style cream cheese will yield unreliable results.
  • Penne can be substituted with any type of dry pasta, although bite-sized pasta like bowtie, elbow, rotini, or rigatoni is recommended.
  • Garlic can be substituted with garlic powder, probably 1 1/2 teaspoons, or to your preferred taste.
  • Extra virgin olive oil is not recommended for this recipe because of its low smoke point. If regular olive oil or light olive oil are unavailable, simply use vegetable oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil.
  • Pecorino, Asiago, or any flavorful aged Italian cheese can be used as substitutes for Parmesan cheese.
  • 1 1/2 – 2 heads of fresh broccoli could be substituted for frozen. Cooking time may vary, cook to your desired doneness.
Penne rigate.

Penne is one of my favorite pastas. Partly because I really like bite-sized pasta dishes and penne works perfectly in so many of them. I’m always careful to buy ridged penne rigate. When a recipe calls pasta to finish cooking in a pan sauce, as is the case here, the little ridges on the outside of penne rigate help the pasta stick so that every bite is thoroughly coated. Penne also are hollow so you get a little magical bite of sauce oozing out of the pasta tube with every bite as well. If you’ve never cooked with penne before, give it a try!

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