I love entertaining although it doesn’t happen too often — I think everyones busy lives often get in the way of get togethers. Bummer eh?? Anyway, I’ve been a bit of a kitchen slave I mean, er chef the past two days Lasagna yesterday and today I whipped up this Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli, and Smoked Mozzarella for a dear friend and her girls that are visiting from out of state. Due to another mid day function, I made it earlier so all I have to do is put it in the oven and viola, it’s ready to go for dinner tonight. That with a simple side salad that has a zingy homemade lemon vinaigrette. The original recipe seems to come from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe but their site appears to be down so I can’t do a link back at the moment. Boo! Anyway, check them out — I always want to give credit where credit is due!
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs (store-bought or make your own) ** see notes below
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds), stalks cut off, florets trimmed into 1-inch pieces
- 12 ounces penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 6 medium garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3), trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
- 3 ounces smoked mozzarella, shredded
- 8 ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped into pieces
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and make sure the oven rack is placed in the middle of the oven. In a large pot, bring the water for the pasta to a boil. Stir in one tablespoon salt and the broccoli. The broccoli cooks quickly so stay close! Cook the broccoli for 1 minute, until it is bright green. Quickly remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon to a plate. Return the water to a boil and add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 1-2 minutes less than how you would eat it normally (it will cook a bit more in the oven while baking). Drain the pasta in a colander and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Leave it in the colander and set it aside.
3. Wipe the pot dry. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the flour, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and cream; bring to a simmer, whisking often. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 6-7 minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and smoked mozzarella.
4. Add the cooked pasta and broccoli to the sauce; stir to combine. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the bread crumb topping. Bake until the casserole is bubbling and the crumbs are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.