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

What To ServeBroccoli Salad
Buttery Peas with Thyme
Fresh fruit

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

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

  1. Angela says:

    This was downright delicious! It made a ton, but my husband had tasty lunches for a couple of days, and he froze some too. Will probably half it next time, but other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing! Thanks!

  2. AnnCP says:

    Made this the other night – even with smoked mozzarella (had to search for it!). It was tasty, but a little dry – it needed more sauce. So – will use less pasta next time. And as others said, it is a great dish to help feed a crowd.

  3. […] I made this scrummy (scrumptious + yummy) pasta dish on Friday night.  I found the original recipe here but I added a few of my own twists.  Hubby loved it, I loved it and we had heaps for leftovers […]

  4. jenny says:

    what if i can’t find sun dried tomatoes????????

  5. ERIKA H. says:

    i made this last night, fantastic! i used regular mozz just because i figured my kids and husband would prefer it, total yum!

  6. Lindsay says:

    I made this and it is my new FAVORITE! It is SO darn good! Even my little 3 year old said “this is the best thing I ever had!” Thank you for sharing!!

  7. Mary says:

    Ohhhhh my goshhhh! Just found this receipe a couple of days ago, and made it tonight for dinner!!!! It was FABULOUS!!!!! The sun dried tomatoes really made the dish stand out; and I just sub’d Silk Cream and reg mozz. FANTASTIC! Thank you so very much for a delicious and wonderful dinner!!!!

  8. […] Plan Monday! Monday:  Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli, and Smoked Mozzerella This.looks.delicious.  I’ll be using the free pasta from Target, cheap chicken from […]

  9. […] fries.  Cost:  Under $5. Thursday: New Recipe Day! Chicken and broccoli pasta, from here again.  Doubling the recipe fed everyone once, but I’ll probably cook another pound of […]

  10. […] 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 […]

  11. EmilyF says:

    It’s only a year after your last comments on this, but I had to say I made it last night for a new mom (found it through the post on new mom take-ins) and it was DELISH! One of my favorites of yours, and I’ve made a bunch. I couldn’t find smoked mozzarella, so subbed fresh; it may have been even yummier with the smoked, but I thought the flavor was still amazing. It’s a keeper!!! I can’t wait for lunch today … leftovers!

  12. ashley says:

    Made this today. It is AMAZING! Yum!!! Thank you Mel! I love the smoked mozzarella in this (even went across town to a different grocery store to find it – well worth it!). Also, thank you for the suggestion about adding a can of drained dice tomatoes if leaving out the sundried tomatoes. I left out the tomatoes this time because I didn’t have any on-hand, and I wish I hadn’t.

  13. rebecca says:

    i am a vegetarian & have made this many times by omitting the chicken & using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. it’s absolutely delicious, and not using chicken cuts down a lot on the prep time too. very filling, inexpensive, and is excellent re-heated!

  14. Melissa says:

    Hi Mel

    Love your website. I would like to know if you can freeze this baked penne with chicken and broccoli. Do I j

  15. Melissa says:

    Hi Mel

    To freeze this receipe do I just follow the make ahead steps?


  16. Sarah says:

    Melissa, I don’t know about Mel, but I freeze this all the time. I make it ahead but don’t bake it. I also don’t put the topping on. I do prepare the topping and tape it in a baggie to the container with the rest in it, but I find freezing it already on the casserole makes it soggy. When I’m ready to use it, I thaw it in the fridge, sprinkle on the topping, and bake. I do have to add 10 minutes or so usually since I’m starting from the refrigerator instead of room temperature/warm, but otherwise, it works wonderfully!

  17. Meredith says:

    Have made this on numerous occasions, often I double this and give away to friends who just had a baby. It’s always a hit. I love it all!

  18. Stephanie says:

    This meal is delicious! My husband and I made it a few days ago and had it for leftovers last night. Mel, I discovered your website about a year ago, and I have found so many that have gone into my regular meal rotation. Thank you!

  19. Emily says:

    I tried this last night and it was fantastic! Because my husband and I don’t get home from work until 6:00 each night, I decided to start the recipe the night before by doing Step #3 and storing it in the fridge overnight. When I got home from work last night, I warmed up the sauce, steamed the broccoli, cooked the pasta and threw it all in the baking dish. The pasta wasn’t soggy and the whole thing was baked and ready to eat by 6:30.

  20. Sarah says:

    I made this last night and we loved it! My substitutions were: whole wheat pasta, half n half, and smoked provolone as I couldn’t find smoked mozzarella. My husband took 3 helpings! Such a delicious recipe and now I’m excited for leftovers for lunch 🙂

  21. Keyontae says:

    Could I use lobster, shrimp or crab instead of chicken? I’m definitely trying this recipe for this week’s dinner

  22. Melissa says:

    I made this into a vegetarian meal…followed instructions just the same while omitting the chicken and it tasted great! I couldn’t find any smoked mozzarella in our grocery store so I opted for white sharp cheddar, used half and half cream and added some hot pepper flakes for some heat…..loved having a meatless main dish with so much flavor! Thank you!

  23. Meghan says:

    I brought this over to a lady I VT… she said they loved it. Thanks

  24. Kristen says:

    Fantastic recipe! My family loved it and I’ve been enjoying the leftovers for a couple of days! I ended up using smoked gouda since I couldn’t find smoked mozzarella and it worked great and tasted amazing. Thanks, Mel, for another great recipe.

  25. The whole family loved this, it was a big hit. Great meal to bring over to someone’s house to help them out, it makes tons.

  26. Tara says:

    Mel – this was amazing and the second recipe in a row from your arsenal that was a family hit!!! I substituted smoke cheddar with parm – worked great. I love to eat, and I love to follow recipes exactly and yours are so easy, with pictures to help us visual learners. Thank you thank you for all your hard work all these years to prepare these amazing and easy recipes for us to follow!

  27. Kristen Berry says:

    Would it be OK to use a rotissere chicken?

    • Mel says:

      Sure, you’ll just need to experiment where to throw in the chicken in the recipe since the recipe calls for uncooked chicken (I wouldn’t cook the rotisserie chicken the same amount of time).

  28. Anna says:

    We love this dish! Made it many,many times. Delish !

  29. Karen says:

    My husband has meniere’s disease so I have been searching for low sodium receipes. This was pretty tasty and the receipe produced enough for another meal.

  30. Rachel M says:

    This was the most AMAZING dish! I’m 28 and literally just BARELY started to be interested in cooking. (I never thought in a million years I would ever want to learn!) But a few friends as well as my sister referred me to your site. I was nervous at first! This was my first “hard” recipe! (My whole family jokes that I can’t boil water) But I followed this recipe to a T and I completely shocked myself! My boyfriend was stunned that I randomly cooked something so amazing! You’ve totally inspired me to start cooking and not be afraid of trying new things (besides frozen store bought meals hehe) so thank you for sharing your talent! This dish is DIVINE!

  31. Barbara Edwards says:

    Hey Mel! I’ve made this before and we all love it but I think I’ve always used cooked chicken before. Just want to verify that you put the raw chicken in the sauce at the end and it cooks in there? Thanks a bunch!

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