Tonight, I was feeling a little adventurous with dinner. I thought I had settled on making macaroni and cheese again, but then I decided to see if I could merge a few things together to create a new dish. And thus, three cheese chicken broccoli penne was born.
~ 4 tbsp butter (I used Smart Balance, which is a butter substitute, for a much healthier route, and the sauce still tasted great!)
~ 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
~ 1 tsp salt
~ 1/2 tsp pepper
~ 1 1/2 cup of milk
~ 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
~ 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
~ 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
~ 1 tsp yellow mustard
~ 1 head of broccoli
~ 2 chicken breasts
~ 2 1/2 cups of penne pasta
~ Salt, to taste
~ Garlic powder, to taste
There are four major components to this dish:
4. Cheese sauce
Out of all of these, I could prefer to have the pasta done last, so this way you can have everything mixed together while the pasta is fresh and not dried out or anything. So, let’s go ahead and tackle the broccoli first.
The trick is that you don’t want some really crunchy broccoli in the pasta, so I went ahead and steamed all of the broccoli crowns. First, prepare the broccoli by cutting off the stem and then separating it out into individual crowns. If the smaller crown is still pretty big, cut that into two separate pieces. Put about 3/4 cup of water into a a saucepan and then bring that up to a boil. Add in the broccoli and cover it, letting it steam for about seven minutes. While that’s going, I went ahead and started to prepare the chicken breast.
Now, the key with the chicken breast is that if you have a larger piece, cut it straight across horizontally, so now you have two smaller pieces that will cook faster on the stovetop. Season both sides with salt and pepper and then cook them in a frying pan with some oil; I would say that 3 – 4 minutes a side should do it. Once the chicken is done, remove it from the heat. Take the finished pieces and cut them into strips, and then cut the strips in half. Check back on the broccoli and if that’s also done, drain out the excess water and set that aside as well.
Now is about a good time to start boiling some water to make the pasta. Throw your penne into the pot and let that cook, somewhere around the neighborhood of 10 minutes. It’s all about timing with this, especially with all four of these components. It’s easy to reheat the broccoli and the chicken once you put everything together, but it would be more difficult for the pasta or the cheese sauce. It’s definitely manageable to make the cheese sauce while the pasta is cooking though.
To make the cheese sauce, first melt down the butter on medium heat. After that, stir in the flour, salt, and pepper. Gradually add in the milk and bring the mixture to a boil. Continue stirring until you feel the mixture has thickened, after which you can lower the heat back to medium high and add in all of the cheeses. Stir the sauce down until all the cheeses have fully melted in, and then throw in the teaspoon of yellow mustard to finish off the sauce. Turn off the heat for the pasta, drain off the pasta from the pot, and return the pasta into the pot. Turn the heat back on to about medium and pour the cheese sauce into the pasta, also mixing in the chicken strips and broccoli. After mixing everything together, I opted to add in a bit more salt and a few shakes of the garlic powder to give it a little more flavor. After warming everything for about 4 – 5 minutes, turn off the heat and you’re ready to go!