When I was a kid, my stepmom invented a dish that was basically a ploy to get us to eat some sort of vegetable. She even named it after us — Kristy and Katie Dish. (Clever, right?) It changed a bit every time she made it but it always featured pasta, a veggie, and a protein tucked into a bechamel sauce, topped with a nice blanket of cheese, and baked. We loved it. (And it wasn’t a lot of vegetables but it did get us to eat some. For what it’s worth, my favorite combos were zucchini/bacon and hot dog/broccoli). While I happily eat my veggies now, it’s something I still make for my own family to this day. This Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole takes its inspiration from that same dish but makes it a little cheesier and relies on shredded chicken for the protein. (I don’t know about you but I always seem to have leftover chicken.) Totally family friendly and totally delicious!
This isn’t as cheesy as macaroni and cheese but it definitely has some similarities, like the fact that it’s pasta baked in sauce. However, this is much more about the creaminess of the sauce and how it mingles with the chicken and broccoli. Once you’re familiar with the process, it’s very easy to make — this is something I make on a whim pretty frequently and I don’t need to glance at a recipe to do it. And while chicken and broccoli is a great combo, you can swap those out for whatever you have on hand. Like I mentioned before, bacon and zucchini are a great combo.
But the base remains the same. While the pasta cooks, you work on the bechamel, which is just a matter of whisking some flour into melted butter and then gradually whisking in milk and letting it cook until it’s thickened. From there you season and add cheese to your heart’s content and stir the pasta, your add-ins, and the sauce together, and bake!
(Broccoli I like to blanch in the pasta water for a couple of minutes first to give it a head start.)
It’s simple enough and totally approachable, but don’t let that make you think that it’s not delicious. It’s creamy, pasta comfort (which is probably my favorite kind) and it’s the type of dish you can always rely on when you want something you know your family will gobble up.
Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
20m prep time
30m cook time
- 1 lb short pasta such as ditalini, macaroni, or shells
- 3 cups broccoli florets, chopped
- 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 5 cups whole milk
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
- Preheat oven to 375°F and grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter or nonstick spray.
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta 2 minutes less than package directions indicate. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add broccoli to pot. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking continuously, for 1-2 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in milk. Continue cooking, whisking frequently, until mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and nutmeg.
- In a large bowl (or your baking dish), stir together pasta, broccoli, chicken, and sauce. Transfer to baking dish, top with mozzarella cheese, and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Enjoy!