An easy and cheesy chicken and broccoli pasta bake with a crispy breadcrumb topping.
Perfect for busy weeknights, I guarantee the whole family will love this hearty and filling pasta bake recipe!
My kids love pasta bakes. There's something just so comforting about gooey cheesy pasta, especially during the colder months when the evenings are dark and chilly and you want a hug-in-a bowl type dish.
Like pasta bakes? Try my chicken fajita pasta bake too!
✔️ Why should you try it?
- Can be made the night before so perfect for busy weeknights
- Filling and hearty
- A great base recipe for different flavours
- Can be easily doubled to feed a crowd
- Penne Pasta - a great shape for pasta bakes because it holds cheese sauces well.
- Chicken Breasts - 1 large chicken breast cut into small chunks.
- Bacon - smoked bacon rashers add a depth of flavour to the pasta bake.
- Garlic - a great flavour enhancer.
- Broccoli - increases the nutritional value of the dish and adds texture..
- Butter - the base of the cheese sauce. I usually use salted butter for cheese sauces.
- Flour - plain flour helps thicken the sauce.
- Milk - use semi skimmed milk to keep the calories down.
- Cheese - grated extra mature cheddar is best for flavour.
- Pesto - helps give the cheese sauce a herby boost.
- Mustard - brings the cheesy flavour out.
- Panko Breadcrumbs - for the crispy breadcrumb topping
- Parmesan - adds flavour to the crunchy topping.
- Dried Thyme - adds a lovely subtle herby flavour to the topping.
- Salt & Pepper - for seasoning.
The recipe card with ingredient quantities and detailed instructions can be found at the bottom of the post
Making the chicken and broccoli pasta bake is so easy!
One: Melt the butter in a large pan and add the garlic, bacon, and chicken. Fry for a few minutes until the chicken changes colour. Add the flour and stir for 2 minutes, then gradually stir in the milk (keep stirring to prevent lumps forming). Simmer until the sauce thickens.
Two: Take the sauce off the heat and add the grated cheddar, pesto, and mustard. Give it a good stir until the cheese is melted.
Three: Boil the pasta and add the broccoli florets 3 minutes before the end of cooking. Drain and add to the cheese sauce. Mix everything together.
Four: Pour the pasta into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and dried thyme. Bake in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes.
💭 Top tips
- Continually stir the cheese sauce whilst it simmers, to help prevent lumps forming. It will only take a few minutes to thicken.
- Boil the pasta until al-dente as it will continue to cook in the oven. You don't want mushy pasta!
- Place your ovenproof dish on a baking sheet in case the cheese sauce bubbles over when baking it.
🍴 Serving suggestions
I usually serve the chicken and broccoli pasta bake with a green salad and garlic bread or focaccia. If the kids are REALLY starving I might even make a batch of my roast sweet potatoes to go with it!
As I work from home, I often reheat leftovers for lunch the next day. It's so comforting and warming on a cold and chilly day.
- Up the vegetables by adding peas and sweetcorn to the chicken pasta bake. Just add a handful of each into the cheese sauce at the same time as you add the cooked pasta and broccoli.
- Vary the cheeses. Crumbled blue cheese in the sauce makes a more adult version of the pasta bake, or use half cheddar and half blue cheese.
- Make it vegetarian friendly by using Quorn pieces instead of the chicken breasts and vegetarian bacon. Omit the grated Parmesan from the topping and use vegetarian hard cheese.
- A handful of chopped parsley and basil added to the cheese sauce, gives it a lovely herby flavour.
- Smoky chorizo instead of bacon is another delicious ingredient substitution. I love the paprika flavours it injects into a dish, like in my chorizo mac and cheese recipe.
The pasta bake can be made the night before (or even 2 nights before) and stored in the fridge. If you're baking the dish straight from the fridge, you will need to add 5-10 minutes to the cooking time, to ensure it's cooked through.
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days and reheated in the microwave.
🧊 Suitable for freezing?
The pasta bake can be made up to the point of baking it in the oven, and then frozen for future use. When you are ready to eat it, take the pasta bake out of the freezer and let it defrost for a couple of hours on the side, before putting it in the oven. The cooking time may need to be increased by 5-10 minutes.
Can I use frozen broccoli?
Frozen broccoli can be used in the pasta bake. Just add it to the pasta at the same time as you would the fresh broccoli.
Can I use a different pasta shape?
Yes, why not try fusilli, rigatoni, farfalle, or macaroni pasta instead? Or, do what I do sometimes and use a mixture of different shapes to help use up those nearly finished bags of pasta in my pantry.
Some more baked pasta recipes you might like;
- Chorizo Mac and Cheese - add smoky chorizo to your mac and cheese, for a Spanish style twist on this family favourite pasta dish.
- Easy Lasagne - a quick and easy lasagne recipe made with a cheat’s white sauce, ready in just 45 minutes! Delicious comfort food the whole family will love.
- Pepperoni Pizza Pasta Bake - pizza in pasta form!
- Chorizo and Pepper Pasta - smoky, tasty and made in just 30 minutes!
- Smoky Meatball Pasta Bake - made with store-bought meatballs and flavoured with smoked paprika.
🍽️ More family-friendly recipes
Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bake
- 50 g Butter
- 2 Garlic Cloves chopped
- 1 Chicken Breast chopped
- 3 Bacon Rashers chopped (I use smoked bacon)
- 50 g Plain Flour
- 600 ml Milk
- 200 g Cheddar grated
- 1 teaspoon Mustard
- 1 tablespoon Pesto
- 200 g Pasta
- 1 Broccoli broken into florets
- Salt and Pepper
For the topping
- 4 tablespoon Panko Breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoon Parmesan grated
- 1 teaspoon Thyme dried
- Preheat the oven to 200°c (180 fan/ 400F/ Gas 6).
- Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Add the broccoli florets for the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.
- In a large pan melt the butter, then add the garlic, bacon and chicken and fry for a couple of minutes until the chicken changes colour. Stir in the flour and cook out for 2 minutes. Gradually stir in the milk and simmer until the sauce thickens. You will need to stir the sauce continuously to prevent it from becoming lumpy.
- Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the grated cheddar, pesto and mustard, along with some salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta and broccoli to the sauce and stir to coat.
- Pour the pasta mix into an ovenproof dish.
- Mix together the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the top of the pasta bake.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and bubbling.