Baked Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli and Three Cheeses
This recipe is based on one I found in a Barilla Pasta cookbook. I made a few changes to the original, both to suit my tastes and to make preparation easier. It is absolutely delicious. I am not a big fan of blue cheese, but I do like it in some dishes. It works for me in this casserole because it adds just a hint of flavor. This makes an easy dinner for a family meal or a spectacular dish for a potluck event, but is equally appropriate for a special occasion or casual entertaining.
- 2 tablespoons butter, preferably unsalted
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces penne rigate or similar pasta
- 2 cups frozen broccoli florets
- 2 to 3 cups skinned and boned leftover poached or roasted chicken, torn into large pieces
- 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Melt the butter in a saucepan; stir in the flour until well blended and cook about 2 minutes, being careful not to let the mixture brown. Gradually stir in the milk and broth and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until mixture is smooth and comes to a boil, about 8 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan; immediately remove from heat.
Cook the pasta according to package directions, just a little shy of al dente. Add the broccoli and cook about 2 minutes more. Drain well and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Combine the pasta, broccoli, cheese sauce and chicken; spread in a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Drop pieces of blue cheese on top and tuck into the pasta with your fingers. Sprinkle the surface with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until top is golden and mixture is bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let set for about 10 minutes before serving.
Notes: You can certainly use fresh broccoli in this recipe. Cook it with the pasta for the last 5 minutes or so. This is a great recipe in which to use a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Leftover baked pasta reheats well in the microwave or in the oven, covered.