This baked penne with chicken, broccoli and smoked mozzarella is so delicious – better than a restaurant, and it freezes well, too.

This delectable baked penne dish has stood the test of time; it’s been a family favorite for over ten years! That’s saying something.

Especially with a family of pasta lovers. 

Flavorful and fairly simple to make, it’s restaurant-level good, and makes a fantastic meal for company (or to take to friends or neighbors).

casserole dish with baked penne and bread crumbs

One Pot Wonder

One of the appeals to this recipe is that the broccoli, pasta and sauce all cook in the same pot, meaning: minimal dishes!

First, the broccoli get plunged into lightly salted boiling water. They cook for just a few short minutes before getting pulled out to rest until a bit later. 

The pasta cooks in the same pot of boiling water. Brilliant! 

raw broccoli cooking in pasta water

When the pasta is drained, the pot (no need to wash!) goes back on the heat for a little sauce making. 

This homemade, creamy sauce is as simple as it gets, but thanks to the onion, garlic and simple seasonings, it’s delicious! 

The uncooked, diced chicken pieces go straight into the simmering sauce and cook for a few minutes, followed by the sun-dried tomatoes and cheese…and then the broccoli and pasta that were cooked earlier. 

adding chicken to creamy sauce, adding sun-dried tomatoes to sauce, adding cheese to sauce, adding broccoli and penne to sauce

A Note About Smoked Mozzarella

I posted this recipe years ago when I had access to a far better cheese selection then I do now. If you can find smoked mozzarella, by all means, use it! It adds a unique, delightful flavor. 

Bur more often than not these days, I just use regular mozzarella, and the end result is still fantastic. 

pasta, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes and creamy sauce in stainless steel pot

Scoop the saucy pasta into a baking dish, top with buttery bread crumbs and bake until golden and bubbling. 

Be prepared: your house is going to smell amazing. 

The pasta bakes at 400 degrees, which means it only needs to be in the oven for 15 minutes or so. 

unbaked baked penne pasta in white dish with bread crumbsserving spoon with scoop of baked penne and bread crumbs in white dish

This baked pasta can really be a meal in and of itself. You’ve got pasta, sauce, cheese and veggies!

We make this recipe all the time – and have for years! It’s one of those delicious, classic recipes that truly stands the test of time.

A few other reviews (so you don’t have to just take my word for it!):

Anna: I made it countless times in past years. It’s our family favorite.and it is always well received by the company. Great way to get some veggies into my kids. Thank you Mel!

Kristen: 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.

fork taking bite of baked penne with chicken, broccoli, and smoked mozzarella

What To Serve
Divine Breadsticks
Fresh fruit
Autumn Pear Salad

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: 8 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
serving spoon taking scoop of baked penne out of white dish

Ingredients

Topping:

  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs, regular or panko
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, 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
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3), trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 ounces smoked or regular mozzarella, shredded
  • 8 ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped into pieces

Instructions

  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. In a large pot, bring the water for the pasta to a boil. Stir in one tablespoon salt and the broccoli. Cook the broccoli for 1 minute, until it is bright green. Quickly remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon or mesh strainer to a plate or bowl.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 (or regular mozzarella).
  6. 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 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Notes

Smoked Mozzarella: If you can't find smoked mozzarella, regular mozzarella works great.

Make-Ahead Instructions: 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.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Follow @melskitchencafe on Instagram and show me the recipes you are making from my blog using the hashtag #melskitchencafe. I love seeing all the goodness you are whipping up in your kitchens!

Recipe Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cover and Bake
Recipe originally posted January 2011; updated July 2021 with new photos, commentary, recipe notes. 

top view of a white dish full of baked penne, chicken, broccoli, cheese, and tomatoes