Chicken Broccoli Ziti Recipe

by vitus
Chicken Broccoli Ziti

Guess who’s back with another easy and delicious weeknight meal? If you’re tired of the same old takeout routine or just looking for a crowd-pleasing dish perfect for busy schedules, you’ve come to the right place! This creamy chicken broccoli ziti bake is my go-to for a satisfying and comforting dinner.

What Is Chicken Broccoli Ziti?

“Chicken broccoli ziti” typically refers to a dish made with chicken, ziti pasta (similar to penne but slightly larger), and broccoli. It’s often prepared by sautéing chicken pieces with garlic and olive oil, then adding cooked ziti pasta and steamed broccoli florets. 

Ingredients:

Protein: 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (diced into bite-sized pieces)

Pasta: 16 ounces dried ziti pasta (or similar shapes like penne, rigatoni, or fusilli)

Vegetables:

  • 1 medium head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (optional)

Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cups milk (whole milk or low-fat)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Seasonings:

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (divided)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper (divided)

Instructions:

  1. Cook the Chicken: Heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large Dutch oven or deep skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with half of the salt and pepper. Sauté the chicken for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside on a plate.
  2. Sauté the Aromatics (Optional): Add onion to the pan with the remaining butter and cook for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  3. Build the Sauce: Add the Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes (if using), and chicken broth to the pan. Bring to a boil, then scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the milk and bring it back to a simmer.
  4. Cook the Pasta and Broccoli: Add the ziti pasta and broccoli florets to the sauce. Reduce heat slightly and simmer for 5-7 minutes until the pasta is al dente and the broccoli is tender-crisp. Stir occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking.
  5. Finish the Dish: Remove the pan from heat once the pasta and broccoli are cooked. Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, cooked chicken, and chopped parsley (if using). Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve and Enjoy: Serve the chicken broccoli ziti hot, with a sprinkle of extra Parmesan cheese and a side of crusty bread, if desired.

Tips:

  • Customize the Protein: For a vegetarian option, you can substitute chicken with other proteins like ground Italian sausage, diced shrimp, or sliced tofu.
  • Add More Veggies: Feel free to add vegetables like chopped carrots, bell peppers, or mushrooms while sautéing the onion.
  • Creamy Version: Substitute half of the milk with heavy cream if you prefer a more decadent sauce.
  • One-Pan Wonder: To minimize cleanup, cook the pasta directly in the sauce with the broccoli florets in the last few minutes of cooking. Just ensure you add enough broth to accommodate the pasta and prevent drying.
  • Leftovers: This dish reheats well. Store leftover chicken broccoli ziti in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

What To Serve With

Main Dish:

  • Chicken broccoli ziti: The star of the meal, featuring:
  • Chicken: Tender pieces of chicken breast or thigh, seasoned and cooked until golden brown.
  • Ziti Pasta: A short, tubular pasta that holds the sauce well.
  • Broccoli: Fresh broccoli florets, blanched or lightly steamed to retain their vibrant green color and crunch.

Side Dishes And Accompaniments:

Garlic Bread Or Breadsticks: Serve warm garlic bread or crispy breadsticks on the side to complement the saucy pasta dish. You can make garlic bread by toasting sliced bread with garlic butter and herbs.

Green Salad: A simple green salad with a light vinaigrette dressing adds freshness and contrasts nicely with the creamy pasta. Include ingredients like mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Roasted Vegetables: Roast carrots, bell peppers, or asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. The caramelized flavors from roasting will add depth to the meal.

Caesar Salad: A classic Caesar salad with romaine lettuce, Caesar dressing, croutons, and shaved Parmesan cheese is a robust option that pairs well with the pasta.

Antipasto Platter: Create a spread of cured meats (like prosciutto or salami), cheeses (such as mozzarella or provolone), olives, and marinated vegetables for a more substantial Mediterranean-inspired side.

Fruit Platter: Offer a refreshing fruit platter with slices of melon, berries, and citrus fruits to cleanse the palate between bites of the creamy pasta.

Beverage Pairings:

  • Wine: A light-bodied white wine like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc complements the creamy sauce and chicken well. A light-bodied red such as Pinot Noir can also work if you prefer red wine.
  • Non-alcoholic: Sparkling water with a splash of citrus or a fruity iced tea can be a refreshing option.

Dessert Ideas:

  • Tiramisu: A classic Italian dessert with layers of coffee-soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese.
  • Chocolate Mousse: Rich and creamy chocolate mousse served in individual glasses.
  • Fresh Fruit Tart: A light and fruity dessert with a buttery crust and custard filling topped with fresh berries or sliced fruit.

Health Benefits

  • Protein from Chicken: Chicken is a lean source of protein, which is essential for muscle repair and growth and for overall cellular function. Protein also helps keep you full and satisfied after a meal, aiding in weight management.
  • Complex Carbohydrates from Ziti Pasta: Ziti pasta provides complex carbohydrates, a good energy source. Complex carbs are digested more slowly than simple ones, helping stabilize blood sugar levels and providing sustained energy.
  • Fiber and Nutrients from Broccoli: Broccoli is rich in fiber, vitamins (such as vitamin C, K, and folate), minerals (such as potassium and calcium), and phytonutrients. Fiber supports digestive health, helps to lower cholesterol levels, and promotes satiety. Vitamins and minerals are essential for various bodily functions, including immune function, bone health, and blood clotting.
  • Low in Unhealthy Fats: When prepared without excessive added fats or heavy cream sauces, chicken broccoli ziti can be relatively low in unhealthy saturated and trans fats. This makes it a heart-healthy option compared to dishes with higher fat content.
  • Versatility in Preparation: The dish can be prepared in various ways to suit different dietary preferences. For example, it can be made with whole wheat ziti pasta for added fiber, and the chicken can be grilled or baked rather than fried to reduce fat content further.
  • Balanced Meal: Chicken broccoli ziti combines protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables in one dish, providing a balanced meal that can help meet nutritional needs. This balance can contribute to overall health and well-being.

Final Thoughts

Chicken broccoli ziti is a fuss-free casserole perfect for busy weeknights. It’s a hearty and satisfying dish loved by kids and adults alike. Plus, it’s easily customizable to your preferences. Whether adding more veggies, swapping the protein, or making it creamier, this recipe offers a delicious base.

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