Chicken, Broccoli and Ziti Bake

Not long ago I was stumped as to what to make for my fiance and I for dinner. Everyone was out so there was no family dinner being made and I had to come up with something quick. I went to my Pinterest board and took a look through and, to my horror, there was nothing I wanted to make! Well, that’s not exactly true – there was plenty that I wanted to make but nothing that was simple, didn’t require a lot of ingredients, and was fast (I knew pinning all those 5-hour crockpot recipes would come back to haunt me). But I had no choice, I had to come up with something since we had eaten out all weekend. And so I thought, “What a perfect time to share one of my own recipes with my readers! I’m always chattering away and critiquing other people’s recipes…why not put one of my own out there?” But what would I make?

I was craving chicken broccoli and ziti – one of my specialties. Though I’m sure it’s actually worse for you, it always seems lighter than tradtional pasta and red sauce – it is a great summer pasta dish. However, it isn’t summer, not even close, so I was also craving something with my ultimate comfort food in it – some ooey, gooey melted cheese. And so I created the below recipe!

It’s really a two for one – if you stop at step 8 you have yourself a super yummy and flavorful chicken, broccoli and ziti dish, just scoop into a bowl, top with some parmasen and voila! But if you keep going all the way to the end you end up with my new twist (disclaimer: I had NEVER tried to do this before so I’m sure it could use some tweaks) – chicken broccoli and ziti BAKE! Yum!

So what do you need to make this creation? Just follow the recipe below!

Ingredients
Makes enough for 4 light eaters or 2-3 heavy eaters
1 lb pasta – rigatoni or ziti are best
1 lb chicken tenderloins – fresh or completely thawed
3-4 cups broccoli florets (fresh or frozen – doesn’t matter)
2 tbsp garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice (fresh with 1 tsp zest is best but bottled is fine)
1/4 cup parmesean + more for topping
1 can your preferred variety chicken broth
1 package shredded mozzarella
Garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste

1. Heat a large fry pan or skillet to high heat. While the pan heats fill a pot with water and put on high heat.

2. Season the chicken lightly with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Place all of the chicken in the hot pan. Brown on both sides.

3. When chicken is 3/4 of the way cooked cut into bite-sized cubes. Move all of the cubes into the center of the pan over the most direct heat.

4. After putting chicken in the center of the pan, distribute broccoli evenly around the outside of the pan and over the chicken if necessary.

5. Now, add the garlic, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of parmesan and the can of chicken broth. Cover and reduce heat to med-high and allow to simmer. At this point, you will want to preheat your oven to 350.

6. By now your water should be boiling. Add your pasta to the water and cook until al dente or just under (it will cook more in the oven.)

7. When the pasta is done, strain it. Using the empty pasta pot, ladel half of your chicken and broccoli mixture into the pot. It is up to you whether or not you want to use the liquid and how much. More liquid = more taste but looser bake.

8. Add all of the pasta back to the pot. Pour remaining chicken and broccoli mixture on top of pasta.

STOP HERE FOR CLASSIC CHICKEN, BROCCOLI AND ZITI! ENJOY!

9. While the pasta is still in the pot, mix in 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella (or as much as you want – the more cheese the denser your bake!)

10. Put the whole mixture in an ungreased casserole dish. Spread evenly and top with 3/4 cup (or as much as you want!) shredded mozzarella

11. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly

12. Enjoy!

Chicken, Broccoli and Ziti Bake

So there you have it! My own recipe – shared with you for the very first time!

Things you should know / tweaks you might want to make?

– You can really use any type of chicken pieces you want as long as they can be cut into bite sized chunks. I use tenderloins because they cook the fastest while still giving you a nice bite (as opposed to quick cooking thin-cut breasts)

– I tried to keep this light so I used reduced fat mozzarella. You will get a lot more flavor and ooey gooey-ness if you use the real stuff.

– The combo of the liquid (I added all of mine to the bake) and the reduced fat cheese (and the amount I used…1 1/4 cup is skimpy for me) made a very loose bake. It served our purposes of wanting chicken broccoli and ziti with a touch of melted cheese but I’d suggest adding a little more cheese, using less liquid, or seeing how real mozzarella affects the final product.

– I use the liquid as is because that is how I’ve always had chicken broccoli and ziti – with a very loose, broth-like sauce. BUT I would like to try adding either some cooking cream or some butter and flour to thicken it up. Could be very interesting mixed in with the bake.

So what do you think? Did you try to make this for your family? Did you make any of my tweaks and get something better (or worse!)? Let me know in the comments!

And, oh yeah, go pin this! Happy pinning!

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2 thoughts on “Chicken, Broccoli and Ziti Bake

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