I made this yesterday after a long weekend. We had driven 3 hours home, I had to ran to the grocery store therefore I wanted something quick for Ryan's lunches throughout the week (Still trying to plan better for lunches so we save $ and don't eat unhealthy stuff). This turned out yummy and reheats very well. Loved the smokey mozzarella with the pasta and broccoli. For vegetarians, easily omit the chicken and you could always add some artichokes or chickpeas (for some extra protein). Possibilities are endless for things to add, not that the recipe needs it but just offering some suggestions
Smoky Mozzarella Pasta Bake
3/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tbs butter, melted
1 bunch broccoli (about 1 1/2 lbs) florets trimmed into bite size pieces and stalks cut off
10 ounces penne pasta
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup light cream
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 lbs skinless chicken breasts, cut into small bite size pieces
3 ounces smoked mozzarella, shredded
1 tsp red pepper flakes
8 ounce jar oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and melted butter, stir to combine well
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and stir in one tbs salt and the broccoli. Only cook for 1 1/2 minutes, no longer. You don't want to make the broccoli soft, you just want it to turn a vibrant green color. Remove the broccoli from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl. Bring the water back to a boil and then add the pasta, cook until al dente (making sure not to overcook where the pasta is mushy). Drain the pasta when al dente and toss with 1 tbs olive oil. Sit aside
Wipe the pot dry that you used for the pasta. Add 1 tbs olive oil and return to medium heat until the olive oil is warm. Add the onion and cook until softened and slightly brown, about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add in the garlic and thyme, cook 30 seconds until very fragrant (garlic "speaks"). Add the flour, salt, pepper and cook stirring constantly until the mixture is golden, which takes about one minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and cream, bring to a simmer, and whisking often to prevent it from sticking. Once it has reached a simmer, add the chicken and cook about 6-7 minutes until cooked through. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and smoked mozzarella and combine well.
Add the cooked pasta and broccoli to the pot and combine. Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased baking dish and sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture. Bake for 15 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly and smells amazing in your home!
This made 6 servings and the servings were large to keep Ryan full throughout the work day!