Last week, Liz stopped by her friend Didi’s house for a quick visit. Didi (whose family owns the amazing Wilson Farms in Lexington, MA) was in the middle of making her family’s favorite dinner: penne pasta with broccoli, chicken, and a creamy cheese sauce. Being the nosey neighbor that she is, Liz just “had to have the recipe.”
Once Didi shared the recipe, we hit the kitchen and created our very own Meal Makeover Mom version (minus the cream of course). Our recipe is sure to be a huge hit with your kids because it features pasta (and who doesn’t love pasta), broccoli, and chicken pieces that look and taste like tenders. Given how much Josh, Simon, Carolyn and Leah (our clan) loved this dish, we’re confident yours will love it too. If you’re cooking for a crowd, you can easily double the recipe.
Cheesy Penne with Chicken & Broccoli
Makes 4 to 5 Servings
8 ounces dried penne pasta
4 to 5 cups medium-size broccoli florets
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 3/4-inch x 2-inch pieces
1/3 cup seasoned dried bread crumbs
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup 1% lowfat milk
1/2 cup all-natural chicken broth
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (about 2 ounces)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cook the pasta according to package directions. About two minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccoli and continue to cook until the pasta and broccoli are done (about 2 more minutes). Drain and return to the saucepan. While the pasta is cooking, coat the chicken in the bread crumbs. Place on a baking sheet and cook until golden and no longer pink in the middle, about 12 minutes. While the pasta is cooking and the chicken is in the oven, heat the canola oil and butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat until the butter melts. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Whisk the milk and broth slowly into the flour mixture. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir gently until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the cooked pasta, broccoli, and chicken in a large serving bowl. Pour the cheese sauce on top and serve.
Nutrition Information per Serving:
450 calories, 11g total fat (3.5g saturated, 0.4g omega-3), 400mg sodium, 51g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 34g protein, 30% vitamin A, 80% vitamin C, 20% calcium, 15% iron
Tip #1: Freeze any leftover chicken broth in ice cube trays or plastic zip-top bags.
Tip #2: Add even more nutrition by switching to a whole wheat blend pasta (we like Barilla Plus).