Baked penne with chicken, broccoli & sun-dried tomatoes

Baked penne with chicken, broccoli & sun-dried tomatoesThe beauty of a good casserole is that you throw a bunch of delicious things into one dish and bake it all together. Think about it: One scoop of casserole offers the perfect bite–you get a little bit of everything in the dish.

When the weather gets colder, casseroles tend to be my go-to dinner choice. They’re simple (if there aren’t too many ingredients) and they provide leftovers for the rest of the week (as long as your dining companions don’t eat it all).

I originally found this recipe on Mel’s Kitchen Cafe blog. It’s hearty with a mixture of penne pasta, broccoli, salty sun-dried tomatoes, chicken, and my favorite ingredient: smoky mozzarella cheese.

BAKED PENNE WITH CHICKEN, BROCCOLI, AND SUN-DRIED TOMATOES
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:
1 bunch broccoli, stalks cut off and florets trimmed into 1-inch pieces
12 ounces penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
3 ounces smoked mozzarella, shredded (I liked to use apple-smoked mozzarella)
8 ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped into pieces

For the topping:
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and butter for the topping and set aside. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  2. In a large pot, bring the water for the pasta to a boil. Stir in one tablespoon of salt and the broccoli. Cook the broccoli for 1 minute, until it is bright green.The broccoli will cook quickly, so keep an eye on it. Quickly remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon to a plate.
  3. Return the water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, about 1-2 minutes less than you would normally (it will cook a bit more in the oven while baking). Drain the pasta and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Leave it in the colander and set it aside.
  4. Wipe the pot dry. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the flour, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute.
  6. Slowly whisk in the broth and heavy cream. Bring to a simmer, whisking often.
  7. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 6-7 minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and smoked mozzarella.
  8. Add the cooked pasta and broccoli to the sauce and stir to combine. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumb topping.
  9. Bake until the casserole is bubbling and the crumbs are lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
  10. Serve immediately.

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