Creamy Broccoli Chicken Shells and Cheese

September 11, 2014

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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

More Easy Pasta Recipes You’ll Love:

5 from 2 votes

Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

Creamy cheesy shells are swirled with broccoli and hearty bites of chicken for a dish that's sure to satisfy!
Servings: 5
Prep10 minutes
Cook20 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

  • 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).
  • Meanwhile, in a pot melt butter over medium heat then stir in flour. Cook mixture stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.

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64 Comments

  • Victoria

    I just made this recipe tonight, and it is soooooo good!!!! It’s a perfect “sit at home on the couch and study/watch Netflix” kind of dinner! I will say, though, that it did take me longer to make than the time described. This is probably because I have no idea how to make a roux and I baked my chicken. Even though my roux came out pastey and gummy, it eventually dissolved into the sauce. For those that are complaining about the flavor, maybe you are expecting a BAM kind of flavor like easy mac….. This tastes like good, home made mac and cheese with broccoli and chicken! Being a cheese lover myself, I didn’t even think twice about adding the whole bag of sharp cheddar cheese! Thanks so much for the wonderful recipe!

  • Dani

    I just finished making this – so glad I did! It’s delicious!

    First of all – I’m not sure why people are so concerned over the sauce. This was my first time making ANY sauce and I just followed the directions and it worked fine.

    I did add some worcestershire sauce (I didn’t measure, just add and taste until it seemed right).
    I also did not have any cheddar – just a “mexican blend”. I used that and I think the cheddar would have been better. It was still very good though! Just a much more mild flavor.
    I topped it with parm cheese and green chili tabasco (I can’t help it – green tabasco is amazing.)

    I think in the future I will probably add some peppers and fresh onion. This would also be amazing with bacon (what isn’t – but still!) or even steak!

    The possibilities are endless. Thank you for the great recipe. :)

  • Dawn

    I just made this recipe and it was delicious! Very easy to make and all of the ingredient proportions are correct. My personal opinion, but i would make sure to add enough salt and pepper (probably more than you would think) just to bring out some extra flavors or it might be a little too bland. Otherwise, wonderful comfort food recipe that I will definitely make again!

  • Karen

    This was easy to make… I cooked the chicken in some Franks Hot Sauce and it tastes great

  • Laura

    Made this for company tonight (except no chicken because it was a side for our meal) and it was fabulous!! I added 1/2 tsp salt and pepper as well as additional garlic and cheese. The texture was fabulous and my granddaughter who does not eat vegetables even ate the broccoli. Thank you Jaclyn for another fabulous recipe. I’m a big fan of your site!

  • Melissa

    Recipe was bland. Boyfriend did not like it and neither did i. I don’t think I would even try again just to tweak the ingredients. Wish I would have read the comments before making.

    The directions were easy and the pictures were helpful however the recipe just did not work for me

  • Maria

    This recipe is amazing! I used leftover rotisserie chicken, & gouda cheese instead of cheddar. So delicious! Even my picky teenager devoured it! Thx for sharing!