Creamy Broccoli Chicken Shells and Cheese

09.11.2014

This Chicken and Broccoli Pasta tastes like a dressed up version of the boxed shells and cheese you grew up eating! It comes together in just 20 minutes and is an easy, quick and filling dinner. 

Creamy chicken and broccoli pasta in large pot

Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

A meal the whole family can agree on can be hard to come by, but this one definitely makes the cut. Better yet, it’s easy to make and if you happen to already have some cooked chicken sitting in the fridge or freezer then you’ve got a meal in no time.

I made this chicken and broccoli pasta much lighter than a traditional mac and cheese by using low-fat milk and no cream, using only a small amount of butter, and using reduced fat cheddar cheese. Plus, I added a bonus of a protein and veggie to make it more of a meal in one, so there’s actually some nutrition in there.

I actually prefer a mac like this versus one with all the fat because it’s not so heavy and I feel fine about eating it. I mean, with 4 1/2 cups broccoli how could it be bad?

If you insist on making this shells and cheese richer, you could use regular fat cheddar and replace a little of the milk with cream (if doing so, I’d reduce the flour by 1 Tbsp).

One more delicious, perfectly creamy and filling dish to add to the rotation. Enjoy!

Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Ingredients

For this easy mac and cheese recipe, you’ll need:

  • Large shell pasta
  • Cooked chicken breasts
  • Broccoli florets
  • Butter
  • All-purpose flour
  • Spices (onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper)
  • Low-fat milk
  • Reduced fat cheddar cheese
  • Parmesan cheese

milk and flour in large pot for roux

How to Make Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

  • Boil pasta according to the package instructions. Add the broccoli in during the last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking.
  • While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the flour.
  • Whisk in the milk, followed by the seasonings. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens.

shredded cheese in large pot with milk and flour mixture

  • Stir in the cheese, then the cooked pasta and broccoli.

chicken and broccoli pasta ingredients in large pot

Can I Make This With Another Type of Pasta?

Yes, any short, sturdy pasta should work for this recipe (like macaroni or rotini). Avoid thinner pastas like spaghetti for this recipe.

Should I Use Fresh or Frozen Broccoli?

I think fresh broccoli is best in this shells and cheese recipe, but if you use frozen I recommend thawing it first and draining it before adding it to the boiling pasta water.

Tips for the Best Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

  • To add more flavor to this dish, use extra sharp cheddar cheese. You can also increase the amount of cheese you use.
  • Feel free to add different veggies to this recipe. Peas and finely diced carrots would work well in this pasta recipe too.
  • Reserve some of the pasta water in case you need to thin the cheese sauce.

chicken and broccoli pasta in white bowl next to bread slices

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Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

5 from 2 votes

Creamy cheesy shells are swirled with broccoli and hearty bites of chicken for a dish that's sure to satisfy!

Servings: 5
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 9 oz large shell pasta , dry (3 1/4 cups)
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts , cooked and shredded into small bites size pieces
  • 12 oz broccoli florets* , diced into small bite size pieces (4 1/2 cups once diced)
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups low-fat milk
  • 6 oz 2% reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese** , shredded (1 1/2 cups)*
  • 1 oz parmesan cheese , finely shredded (1/3 cup)

Instructions

  1. Boil pasta according to directions listed on package adding broccoli during last 3 - 4 minutes of boiling, drain well (reserve 1/4 cup pasta water, just in case you want to thin pasta sauce).
  2. Meanwhile, in a pot melt butter over medium heat then stir in flour. Cook mixture stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  3. While whisking vigorously, slowly add in milk, then season with onion powder, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high, cook mixture, stirring constantly until it boils and thickens.
  4. Remove from heat, allow to cool for 1 minute then add in cheddar and parmesan cheese and stir until melted. Add drained pasta and broccoli and chicken and toss to evenly coat. As it sits it will thicken, you can thin it with a few tbsp pasta water if desired.

Recipe Notes

  • *I think fresh broccoli is best in this shells and cheese recipe, but if you use frozen I recommend thawing it first and draining it before adding it to the boiling pasta water. 
  • **If you want a stronger cheddar cheese flavor, use 8 oz. You can also use extra sharp cheddar.
  • Recipe Source: Cooking Classy
Nutrition Facts
Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Pasta
Amount Per Serving
Calories 620 Calories from Fat 216
% Daily Value*
Fat 24g37%
Saturated Fat 14g88%
Cholesterol 124mg41%
Sodium 550mg24%
Potassium 896mg26%
Carbohydrates 55g18%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 43g86%
Vitamin A 1160IU23%
Vitamin C 62mg75%
Calcium 530mg53%
Iron 2.1mg12%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: broccoli chicken, shells
Calories: 620 kcal
Author: Jaclyn

64 comments

  • Stacy: Great Recipe! Delicious! And easy. May 31, 2018 at 9:40am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks for the 5 star feedback! June 4, 2018 at 10:49am Reply

  • Lynda: Loved it!! I made it gluten free by switching out the pasta and flour for gluten free substitutes. Will definitely make again. December 19, 2017 at 7:40pm Reply

  • Ady: Has anyone tried with canned brocolli cheese soup September 6, 2017 at 8:28pm Reply

  • Melo: Can I use oat flour instead of all purpose flour? March 5, 2017 at 1:04pm Reply

  • Rob: Hi – is that broccoli fresh or frozen in your pictures? November 7, 2016 at 8:34pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: It’s fresh November 8, 2016 at 10:01am Reply

    • Jaclyn: It’s fresh. November 8, 2016 at 10:01am Reply

  • Angie: This is really good. We have this in our regular rotation now! October 12, 2016 at 5:01pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so happy these that Angie! October 13, 2016 at 10:58am Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so happy that Angie! October 13, 2016 at 10:58am Reply

  • Angel: I make this s lot and it is a hit even with my pickiest child ! I love how versatile it is. I add different cheeses….and steam my broccoli. I was wondwrong if anyone has tried it with a little chicken stock instead if all milk? I was thining 2 cups of milk and one cup of chicken stock . Think it might worl ? Again thank you for sharing this is delish! July 5, 2016 at 12:28pm Reply

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