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.
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.
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!