One for all those busy nights - a complete HEALTHY meal all made in one baking dish. 5 minutes prep, pop it in the oven, then out comes perfectly cooked chicken and broccoli pasta bake smothered in a creamy sauce. Recipe VIDEO below, serves 4 - 5.
Preheat oven to 200C/390F (standard) or 180C/350F (fan forced / convection).
Sprinkle chicken with salt (be generous), pepper and thyme, toss to coat.
Remove foil, STIR WELL. Add most of the cheese, then STIR WELL again. Top with remaining cheese.
Return to oven. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until top is golden and sauce is thickened (See note 4 for troubleshooting).
1. The best pasta to use for this recipe is spirals because the flour can't get caught anywhere (for example, inside penne / ziti tubes, macaroni pasta etc. ) . To make this with penne, ziti or macaroni, place the flour in a small bowl and add a splash of the milk, then mix until dissolved and lump free. Then add the rest of the milk, mix, then pour it into the baking dish. That is the only change required.
2. BROCCOLI: Break them into smallish florets to ensure it cooks through. If you like your broccoli very soft, then break/cut them into small florets.
Frozen broccoli: Thaw and shake off excess water before using (otherwise it drops too much liquid while baking + takes too long to cook). Frozen thawed cauliflower requires the same.
See below for other veggies.
3. Cheddar and Colby are my usual, but it works fine with any flavoured cheese that melts. I don't use mozzarella in the bake because it doesn't have as strong a flavour, but sometimes I use mozzarella to top the bake. AUSTRALIA: Some brands of tasty cheese has a tendency to come out a teeny bit "grainy" when used in cheesy sauces like this. It will work fine with better brands, but I would not use value brands.
4. TROUBLESHOOTING: The cook time for this sort of recipe is affected by the strength of your oven. Weak = undercooked pasta, raw chicken and watery sauce at end of cook time per recipe. Just leave it in the oven! If the cook time is way out for you and the top is too brown, cover with foil or a tray and put it back in the oven.
5. ABOUT THIS METHOD OF COOKING: Read in post for how/why I came up with this method of cooking. Also read in post for the difference between this and making a traditional roux / white sauce / cheesy béchamel sauce like I do for classic Mac and Cheese. The main difference is that the sauce is not quite as silky and if you look closely, the sauce on the base of the baking dish can look a tiny bit split - but it doesn't taste it. It is a very small compromise for the sheer convenience. It tastes absolutely fantastic and a friend of mine seriously challenged me as to why she should ever make a creamy pasta bake any other way.
6. ALTERNATIVE VEGGIES: I have also made this an even lazier way using canned tuna, diced frozen veggies and baby spinach. Just add the frozen veggies in with the pasta, then stir the tuna and spinach in with the cheese. If using frozen veggies, be sure not to use ones that leech a lot of liquid when they thaw e.g. broccoli. I used mixed veggie bag of carrots, corn, peas.
7. FREEZING: It's not the best to freeze because of the way the sauce is made so it does look a bit split when reheated but the taste is still great! Reheating leftovers from the fridge is fine though.
8. Nutrition assuming 5 servings, tenderloin, 1.5 tbsp butter and 1 cup of shredded cheese.