Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Baked Shells

Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Baked Shells
So, it looks like I’m still stuck in my once a month posting rut but I’m hoping to get things going a little bit more regularly around here now that school is in session! At least, for a change, I’ve posted a real MEAL – not just a salad or dessert recipe (yes, I noticed that, too). And oh, what a good one this is!

These days I’m really searching hard for meals that my entire family will eat – that means a man, a woman trying to eat well, a 4 year old and a 2 year old who only eats “chicken and fries” – all day every day. This meal was a winner for 3/4. The farthest I got with Henry was placing a single shell in his mouth, chewing for 3 seconds and spitting it out asking, “chicken and fries?” It was, however, totally his loss because this was SO GOOD. It was cheesy and flavorful – perfectly crispy and gooey. And it wasn’t insanely unhealthy or time consuming to make. What I also love about this is you can totally swap out the veggies to be whatever you like – so if broccoli isn’t your thing, this would also be delicious with some baby spinach or roasted red peppers. This dish is definitely working its way into our weeknight repertoire.
Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Baked Shells 1

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Baked Shells

Yield: 6-8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb medium shell pasta
  • 2-3 cups chopped, cooked chicken (either cook 2 chicken breasts or buy a rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 large head of broccoli florets, chopped (discard the stems)
  • 1 batch of cheese sauce (see below)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (optional)

Cheese Sauce

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp + 1 tsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (you can either use whole milk or low fat milk)
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large pot of salted water, cook the shells al dente according to the package directions.  Add the prepared broccoli to the boiling pasta water for the last 3 minutes of cooking time.  Strain the pasta and broccoli together.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce.  In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add in the minced garlic.
  4. Saute the garlic until it's fragrant and then add in the flour and cook over medium heat for about a minute stirring occassionally.
  5. Slowly pour the chicken broth into the pan while constantly whisking until it's smooth.  Next, add in the milk - bring the mixture to a simmer and stir for about a minute, until it has thickened.
  6. Add in the salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese and stir over low heat until the cheese is totally melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
  7. Combine the chicken, pasta and broccoli with the cheese sauce (either in the pasta pot or the saute pan, whichever can hold everything) and toss it until everything is evenly coated.
  8. Pour half of the pasta mixture into a 9"x13" baking dish - sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese evenly over the pasta.  Pour in the remaining pasta and top with the leftover mozzarella cheese and the breadcrumbs.
  9. Bake  for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and everything is golden.

Recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven