Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli and Smoked Mozzarella

I love me some pasta. Look no further than here for evidence of that.

This baked penne dish is among good company…and it can definitely hold its own. Tender pasta is smothered in a smoky mozzarella cream sauce and littered with delicious chunks of chicken, vibrant broccoli and tart sun-dried tomatoes. Topped with buttery bread crumbs and baked to bubbly goodness, this pasta casserole is uh-mazing. Perfect take-in meal for that friend or sister or neighbor who just moved, had a baby, needs an extra hand of help – or better yet, why don’t you give this recipe to a friend or sister or neighbor and tell them you really need it made for you asap. Yeah, I like that idea.

Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli and Smoked Mozzarella

One Year Ago: Chicken Spiedie Sandwiches
Two Years Ago: Peanut Butter Crunch Snack Balls
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Scotcharoos

Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli and Smoked Mozzarella

Yield: Serves 6-8

Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli and Smoked Mozzarella

Note: See the asterisk below the recipe for make-ahead directions. Also, I’ve received several questions about the smoked mozz and where to find it. In my well-stocked grocery store it is by the mozzarella cheese – but then again, I am in Wisconsin, land of the cheese – I have also found it in the specialty cheese section (by the brie, feta, etc.).


  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (store-bought or make your own)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Filling:
  • 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 ½ pounds), stalks cut off, florets trimmed into 1-inch pieces
  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3), trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 ounces smoked mozzarella, shredded
  • 8 ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped into pieces


  1. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and butter and set aside. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking dish and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and make sure the oven rack is placed in the middle of the oven. In a large pot, bring the water for the pasta to a boil. Stir in one tablespoon salt and the broccoli. The broccoli cooks quickly so stay close! Cook the broccoli for 1 minute, until it is bright green. Quickly remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon to a plate. Return the water to a boil and add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 1-2 minutes less than how you would eat it normally (it will cook a bit more in the oven while baking). Drain the pasta in a colander and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Leave it in the colander and set it aside.
  3. Wipe the pot dry. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the flour, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and cream; bring to a simmer, whisking often. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 6-7 minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and smoked mozzarella.
  4. Add the cooked pasta and broccoli to the sauce; stir to combine. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the bread crumb topping. Bake until the casserole is bubbling and the crumbs are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.


*The casserole can be prepared in advance with the following steps: after the broccoli is removed from the boiling water, plunge it into a bowl of ice water and cool completely. Assemble the casserole following the directions in the recipe. After the casserole is spread in the prepared baking pan, let it cool for 5-10 minutes before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating for up to 8 hours. To bake, preheat the oven to 375 and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

Recipe Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cover and Bake

136 Responses to Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli and Smoked Mozzarella

  1. Classic dish and flavors- looks wonderful and hearty!

  2. Jenny says:

    Love pastahhhhhhh. . . especially penne. It looks and sounds like a wonderful combination of flavors. What’s not to like?

  3. Beth says:

    YUM!!! Darn Weight Watchers… ;) I will definitely be making this for a special occasion… Points be damned! Sorry if this is a dumb question… But I have never heard of smoked mozzerella…sound delish! Where can you find it at the grocery? Thanks for another awesome recipe!

  4. Gwyn says:

    Yes, Pasta, I love it!! I will have to make this one!!

  5. Jana says:

    Hello Mel-
    I just found your website from u-create foods site and
    I love your recipes. I already have so many on my must try list
    Especially your favorite cookie recipes. But the moment
    I knew you were a real foodie is when you listed you
    use a Bosch instead of the kitchenaid. Seriously, best mixer
    ever! Thanks again for all your recipes.

  6. Sara says:

    This looks so good! I love baked pastas.

  7. HollyL says:

    This sounds amazing! I LOVE pasta.. broccoli.. cheese… all of it! YUM

  8. KarenC says:

    Oh, yum! I love pasta, too… especially penne. I’m going to make this dish this weekend. It’s got some of my favorite ingredients in it, so I already know it’s going to be delicious!

  9. This looks like it would be a huge hit in this house. I think I may just have everything too!

  10. Jackie says:

    Hi Mel

    I do not like smoked mozzarella, what other type of cheese can I use in this recipe. Thanks.

  11. Norah B says:

    Oh gosh I want this tonight. Sadly I can’t grocery shop until next month but this looks so good. I can’t wait to give it a try.

  12. kathleen says:

    Holy YUM! I can’t wait to make this! Thanks girlfriend!!!

  13. Rebekah says:

    That sounds amazing! I’ll have to make it soon.

  14. Mel says:

    Jackie – do you like regular mozzarella? It would make a perfect substitution. You could also substitute fontina with great results.

  15. Mel says:

    Hi Beth – I usually find the smoked mozzarella tucked in next to the other specialty-type cheeses, like feta, brie, blue cheese. You can substitute regular mozz if you can’t find the smoked.

  16. Linda says:

    Is the chicken added raw or cooked? Sounds great!

  17. Mel says:

    Linda – the chicken is added raw and cooked with the broth/cream mixture.

  18. Jina says:

    I made this today and it was awesome! All 3 kids enjoyed it so that makes it a winner in my book. I used regular Mozzarella because it’s what I had on hand and I threw in a few bacon bits just because I thought it would be good. Thanks so much Mel! I love your site and check it everyday!

  19. Veronica says:

    Oh, I’m a pasta girl too and I like the sound of this one! Saved!

  20. Zoe says:

    YUM!! The Pasta looks so tasty~ can’t wait to make this!Thanks!

  21. Carlee says:

    Leave no carb untouched…that’s my motto. I love pasta – it’s so easy and versitle. The falovour combinations in this dish sound yummy – I will be making a vegetarian version of this for the weekend. Thanks for all the great recipe ideas. And your photos are lovely.

  22. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by CP, Recipes for you. Recipes for you said: Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli and Smoked Mozzarella: I love me some pasta. Look no further than here for ev… [...]

  23. Kim in MD says:

    Ok, Melanie. Can I just say that this looks like the most delicious pasta recipe I have seen since your one skillet pasta recipe?! My children request that pasta at least once a week! This looks like my kind of pasta- I LOVE smoked mozzarella! This is on the menu in my house next week…thanks so much for your amazing blog!

  24. Abby says:

    YUM! I can’t wait to try this out!

  25. Mel says:

    Jina – I’m happy this was a hit with everyone. Thanks for including your changes!

  26. Hello!
    I just wanted to take time and tell you how much I LOVE, not only your recipes, but your blog, your blog layout, your photos, pretty much everything. You are doing such a fantastic job.
    Your photos are wonderful, and your recipes are simply my style all the way! You really are doing a fantastic job. Everything looks so good, I can’t wait to start making your creations. Thanks so much, Sally

  27. Cammee says:

    I’m dying to try this. I love your other Chicken, Broccoli, Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta. But smoked mozzarella? This has to be good!

  28. Oh I wish I had a bowl of this right now! This looks aaaamazing!

  29. KarenC says:

    I made this for dinner tonight and everyone loved it! It was so cheesy and delicious. I tossed my onions, broccoli and garlic together with a little olive oil and roasted them in the oven. Same with the chicken. Then I made the sauce and stirred everything together with the pasta. I used panko for the crumb topping. It was delicious.

    Thanks, Mel!

  30. grace says:

    i need to just state that the bread crumb topping makes all the difference in the world. masterful.

  31. Mel says:

    KarenC – love your changes, as always. Thanks!

  32. Rachel says:

    Thanks for the great idea! We love pasta and use Barillas new PLUS whole grain pasta, it was great to find they have penne for this dish. Tomatoes, broccoli and cheeses meshed into wonderful flavors, will make this again!!!

  33. Ok, Mel. You’ve outdone yourself again. Is it any wonder that your site is bookmarked on my tabs for quick access? I am making this ASAP!

    BTW- I blogged about your wonderful cornbread today!

  34. Carlin says:

    This was oh so good!!! Restaurant quality, for sure. I just felt like it took me FOREVER to put together. Am I the only one? I think it will be a special occasion dinner.
    Oh, and I was nervous about putting the chicken in the sauce raw, but it cooked up perfectly!

  35. Taylor says:

    I made this tonight and LOVED it! The smoked mozzarella was so unique and delicious….definitely a keeper!! Thanks so much for the great recipe :)

  36. Mary says:

    Another fabulous pasta recipe. I made it last night for me and my mother. She doesn’t like broccoli cooked with her pasta so I omitted that part but on my plate I stirred in some baby spinach. It was wonderful. The smoked mozzarella was a nice and delicious change of pace for pasta.

  37. n82 says:

    Made this today. Was pretty good. Took forever to make tho :)

  38. Stacey says:

    Was wondering where you find the smoked mozzarella at? I have never seen it. Thanks

  39. Janelle says:

    This sounds really good, but what I really appreciate is the use of the same pan for each part of meal prep, instead of dirtying three separate pans.

    For those asking about where to find smoked Mozzarella, I can usually find it with the “fancy” cheeses over by the deli at the back of the produce department at my grocery store.

  40. Jen M says:

    If I used the dry sundried tomatoes instead of the oil packed ones do I need to plump them with hot water or something first?

  41. k says:

    i made this two nights ago. i loved it! my boys wouldn’t touch it (ARGH), but i was kind of glad because, well, more for me! i used plain mozzarella and rotini because that’s what i had. awesome. i took leftovers with me to watch tennis matches yesterday and it was even better than the night before (didn’t think that could even be possible)! oh, i was almost at the end of the recipe when i realized i hadn’t put in the salt and pepper. when is that supposed to happen? does it matter? i just threw it in when i realized. thanks so much for this recipe. it’s one of my new favorites!

  42. Mel says:

    k – yes, the salt and pepper goes in with the roux/sauce. I’ve edited the recipe. Glad you liked it!

  43. Kathy says:

    Made this for the family last night. It was a hit! I used regular mozzarella since I couldn’t find the smoked mozzarella. Thanks!

  44. Lorie says:

    Hi Melanie, how much will the dish suffer if I omit the sun dried tomatoes? I’ll probably buy it but it was so expensive!


  45. Mel says:

    Lorie, if the sun-dried tomatoes are really expensive, definitely leave them out. I don’t like spending a lot of money on fussy ingredients, so I wouldn’t bother if I were you. The dish will lose a little tang from the tomatoes but I think you could easily substitute a can of drained, diced tomatoes.

  46. Beth says:

    I am planning to make this for 2 friends who just had babies tomorrow… But what’s the deal with 8 hours before hand? What would happen if I made it 24 hours ahead of time?? Thank you!!

  47. Mel says:

    Beth – I think making it too far in advance and the sauce might make the pasta too soggy (or the pasta bake may even dry out a bit on the top layer where the pasta has settled to the bottom).

  48. Sarah says:

    Love your blog! I use it all the time. This recipe was outstanding. My kids & husband loved it! Thank you.

  49. Alanna says:

    I just got around to trying this today and it was AMAZING. This is quickly becoming my go-to website for new recipes– thanks so much for sharing!!!

  50. n82 says:

    This was good. We enjoyed it.

  51. Elise says:

    I was just wondering if you use fresh, regular dried or panko bread crumbs?

  52. Made this for my family last week and Everyone LOVED it!

  53. Mel says:

    Hi Elise – I either use freshly ground bread crumbs or panko, if I don’t have the time to make my own. Hope that helps!

  54. Mindy says:

    I made this tonight for dinner and it was SO delicious… my kids devoured it and my husband loved it. I couldn’t find smoked mozzarella (my regular grocery store doesn’t have a ton of “specialty” variety), so I used regular mozzarella and added several shakes of liquid smoke to the broth/cream sauce as the chicken was cooking. It tasted great, but I was hoping for even more smoky flavor, so I plan to search harder for the smoked mozzarella when I make this again soon. Thanks for the delicious recipe!! Yours is my favorite recipe blog, hands down!

  55. Kari says:

    This is very good. My husband told me that it is as delicious as food you get at a restaurant.

  56. Bri says:

    After making this we realized we really don’t like smoked mozzarella. You live and learn. I do want to try it again though because I did love the other flavors. I was thinking of doing parmesan instead of the mozzarella. Could I use half and half instead of heavy cream too? Has anyone tried this with whole wheat pasta?

  57. Mel says:

    Bri – yes, you could use half-and-half and you might even be able to get away with using milk but the sauce may not thicken up as much. I think it would work just fine with whole wheat pasta, although I haven’t tried it that way.

  58. Linda says:

    Made this for dinner Monday night! My family LOVED it! You are awesome Mel…. LOVE your website.

  59. Sarah says:

    We made this last night and it was a hit, even with my toddler (he especially loves broccoli). We used half-and-half and it was still really quite rich. I may cut that with milk next time (or not).

  60. Alexis says:

    I made this last night and it was delicious! I didn’t have an onion so I just added a lot of onion powder and onion flakes. I also cut the recipe in half since it was just for me and my husband. I wound up having seconds and there’s still a very large portion left in the fridge for later! I also used regular shredded mozzarella (Sargento) instead of smoked.

    I have to say, the sundried tomatoes are a must! They really add an explosion of flavor to every bite. And I loved the breadcrumb topping. This was a great meal, and I’m looking forward to having it again (though next time with a real onion — and maybe a half and half instead of heavy cream for a little less guilt).

  61. [...] Pasta day!  Chicken, broccoli and smoked mozzarella pasta.  This is so tasty.  Chicken was $1.69/lb at Randalls ($3.38), broccoli was $1 at HEB, pasta was [...]

  62. Suzanne says:

    Do you have any good ideas for something other than thyme to use to flavor the dish?

  63. Mel says:

    Suzanne – you could probably get away with using basil or oregano, it will change the flavor slightly, but if you like those herbs, it should work out ok.

  64. J'Aime says:

    This was fantastic! We used regular mozzerella, because that’s what was requested. We also omitted the sun-dried tomatoes and added crimini mushrooms to the sauce. It was a hit!

  65. [...] {Baked Penne with Mozzarella, Broccoli & Chicken} [...]

  66. denise says:

    Can’t wait to try this recipe, looks so flavorful! I’ve been looking to try a chicken recipe with white wine in it, do you think it would work to add a little white wine (assuming i use regular mozz) to this sauce? or would it not blend well with the other flavors?
    Thank you in advance for any suggestions!

  67. Mel says:

    Denise, I’m almost positive this recipe included the white wine to begin with but because I don’t generally cook with wine, I omitted it. So yes, I think you could easily add white wine to this recipe and have it work well with the flavors!

  68. Tendayi says:

    Thanks for sharing, it sounds so good!!! I am not a cream sauce person. Do you think leaving the heavy cream out will ruin the recipe? Thanks for sharing!
    Tendayi Taylor

  69. Mel says:

    Tendayi – if you left out the cream, you would probably have to play around with the broth (adding more) so the pasta isn’t so dry. I think this particular recipe really benefits from the cream, personally, but if you try it without, let me know how it turns out.

  70. Paige says:

    I made this the other night for my family. We all loved it. I didn’t start making it until 6:30 and we ate around 8:00. So it did take a while to prepare for oven time. But next time I will just have to start a little earlier. Wonderful hearty meal for a cold night. Loved it. Thanks again for sharing it

  71. Rachel says:

    Hi Mel, just to say thank you for the recipe. I made this for dinner earlier tonight. Had to use regular mozzarella as I just can’t get hold of smoked mozzarella over here in Liverpool (UK) and had to skip the breadcrumbs as I just don’t have any! But it still tasted really lovely… and indulgent… :) Everyone loved it, my kids too!

  72. Sierra says:

    this looks so yummy! i don’t eat meat though… wondering if the dish would suffer if i left chicken out and used veggie broth? can’t wait to try it though!

  73. Mel says:

    Sierra – I think it would work out just fine, especially if you are used to vegetarian meals.

  74. Adrienne says:

    I second Jen M’s question – looked through and I couldn’t find the answer. I have sundried tomatoes in a bag, should i do anything to them before adding them?

  75. Mel says:

    Adrienne – for the dehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, submerge them in very hot water and let them sit for about 20 minutes. Drain and then slice them up for the recipe.

  76. Stephanie says:

    This was awesome! It was a bit time consuming, but so worth it in the end. My husband kept complimenting me through the entire meal. Thank you so much!

  77. Mary K says:

    Can you freeze this and bake later? Will it turn out the same?

  78. Mel says:

    Mary K – I’ve never frozen and baked later but if you look through the comments, I think others have tried it. If they haven’t, I think it’s probably worth a try and would fare decently.

  79. rebecca says:

    by the most delicious pasta i’ve ever had outside a restaurant. the only substitutions i made we swapping oregano for thyme, and regular mozz for smoked, but i was totally blown away by how flavorful the sauce was. i would also love to hear how people fare with freezing the recipe. i cut down the prep time a bit by using pre-grilled chicken, and will probably do so again, as it is a bit time consuming. thanks for the deliciousness!

  80. [...] It Is, Chicken Cutlets with Romesco and Prosciutto Cracklins from JBug’s Kitchen Antics, Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli, and Smoked Mozzarella from KitchenCafe, Sopa de Ajo from Kitchenist, Cobb Salad in a Wrap from La Bella Vita, Sweet [...]

  81. Sarah says:

    This is absolutely delicious! I used leftover shredded chicken instead of cooking from raw (just to save a bit of time), doubled the smoked mozz., left out the tomatoes (because I forgot to buy them, oops!), and used Ritz crackers for the topping instead of breadcrumbs (at my husband’s request…he’s not a breadcrumb fan). I divided it into two 8×8 pans, baked one right away and froze the other. We had the frozen one tonight and it was just as yummy! Freeze the breadcrumb topping separately (just attach the bag with the topping to the pan with the pasta) so it doesn’t get soggy when it thaws, then thaw and bake using the make ahead directions. So, so good!

  82. Sarah says:

    This recipe was my intro to your blog when I stumbled upon the link here:, and it was REALLY yummy! My husband and 6-year-old both loved it too. I’m now searching your archives and making a (long) list of other recipes to try. Next up: The Broccoli Beef. Mmmm. So glad I’ve stumbled upon your site!

  83. [...] a Comment This post may contain affiliate links. You can see my full disclosure policy here.Monday: Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli and Smoked Mozzarella. Cost is about $8.Tuesday: Taco Tuesday! Cost is about $8 to feed everyone.Wednesday: Beef tips and [...]

  84. denise says:

    I just made this last night and it was outstanding!
    My adjustments:
    I didn’t have chicken on hand so I added frozen peas for extra veggies
    Used Panko instead of Bread crumbs
    Added about a cup of dry white wine to sauce
    Used shredded mozz instead of smoked mozz

    It was great, lots of flavor and very moist. Even the re-heated left overs were tasty!

  85. Theresa says:

    Does anyone know how to find calorie content for this dish?

  86. TXMEL says:

    I made this last night for dinner. After BFF made it and it took her 3 hrs, I was pleased with 1:20 prep to oven time. It does take a while. I looked at 3 stores and could not find smoked Mozz, so I used half fresh mozz and half Asiago. (not enough smoky flavor still…) Had a Tbl of SDTomatoes in oil, used those plus rehydrated some dried in hot water while prepping. (ps… used the OIL from SDT’s to toss in the pasta after cooking… genius!)
    Using just one pot is genius, as it already makes LOTS of dishes, but I might try the ROASTING tip for the broccolli, onions and garlic next time, and use shredded chicken. I like the tip using liquid smoke… wish I’d thought of that! Will also try adding wine for some of the broth next time. AND adding bacon… genius! I forgot to add bread crumbs… didn’t have any on hand… but using RITZ?… also genius! Wish I’d read that before!
    LOVE Mel’s recipes! Always great, yummy and success!!! (From one Melanie to another Melanie!)

  87. [...] next post). I had made an executive decision a while back to carbo load on Saturday nights. I had this recipe bookmarked for a while, but it kept on getting pushed back. As I’ve said before, I’m a [...]

  88. Danielle says:

    If you prep, this dish does not take forever to make. Just get everything ready in advance so all you have to do is keep adding your ingredients as you go along. I made this for dinner tonight- I loved it! I had fresh thyme so I used that instead. I grated parmesan and mozzarella over it instead of the bread crumb topping just because I wanted more cheese. The sauce is so flavorful and wonderful, I loved it!

  89. [...] Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli, & Smoked Mozzarella [...]

  90. [...] Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli, & Smoked Mozzarella – I didn’t make this a couple of weeks ago. [...]

  91. Jess says:

    Good recipe, bit overwhelming the first time (ESPECIALLY if you’re using an electric stove where it takes forever for anything to boil). I bought the fancy $7 a block Fontina cheese, couldnt find the smoked mozzarella, and personally wasnt that impressed taste wise. If I do this again I’ll probably just buy some good ole pre shredded mozzarella.

  92. [...] Monday- Baked penne with smoked mozzarella  [...]

  93. [...] I spotted this baked penne with chicken, broccoli and smoked gouda on Mel’s Kitchen (a fellow Wisconsin blogger) and read the ingredient list, I knew it would [...]

  94. Amanda says:

    Hi Mel, nice to meet you :) fellow Wisconsin food blogger here, though I’m way down at the bottom of the state. Anyway, I made this recipe with several adaptations and we absolutely loved it, so glad I found you! Oh, and I saw in the comments that someone asked if you could use milk instead of cream. I used 1% milk and it worked great. :) Thanks again and you can see my version here

  95. Emily says:

    I LOVE this recipe, but my kids are only so-so fans. Finally realized they didn’t like the texture of the garlic and onions in the sauce so when I made it tonight I subbed garlic and onion powder and it worked like a charm! Nice smooth sauce that the kids would eat! (Although I still couldn’t get them to touch the sundried tomatoes and broccoli.) I’ve made this in the past with different cheeses and it’s always turned out great. Tonight I had some cheese from sandwiches and other recipes I needed to use up so I threw in a slice each of swiss, smoked provolone, and smoked gouda….yum! Thanks for all your great recipes!

  96. [...] Monday: [b] cinnamon toast, [l] hot dogs, [d] baked penne with chicken + broccoli [...]

  97. [...] Baked penne with chicken, broccoli and mozzarella  So what’s on your menu this week? Leave A Comment var addthis_config = { [...]

  98. [...] as well. Here’s my recipe. You can look at the original recipe from mel’s kitchen cafe here. Also, I’m pinching Mel’s image because I forgot to take a photo of my dinner, if you [...]

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