Do you ever feel a little naughty eating pasta Alfredo? Like you’re doing something you shouldn’t, eating carbohydrates slathered in rich, creamy sauce? I do, sometimes. I also feel like having something green would completely cancel out any harm the cream may do to my arteries. And adding in a protein just makes it a perfectly balanced meal, right? Obviously, chicken and broccoli Alfredo is the perfect meal. It covers all the basic food groups including garlic and cheese (because those are in their own category — I’m sure of it).
This particular recipe satisfies in a way plain ol’ Alfredo just doesn’t. Aside from the broccoli making me feel like I’m eating healthily, there’s just something about garlicky cream sauce that goes perfectly with broccoli and chicken. Here, I use penne pasta to steer from the classic fettuccine for two reasons: one, the ridges in the penne carry more of the sauce than a long, flat pasta can, and two, penne pasta freezes and reheats like a dream — no clumping to worry about.
This recipe yields about four (one-cup) portions. If you aren't making this to eat right away freeze portions in microwave-safe, freezer-safe containers for up to one month. There's no need to thaw it out before microwaving. If you bring a container of this pasta along for lunch, stick it in the fridge to slowly defrost.
Next time you're sitting at your desk faced with the prospect of some frozen meal hidden in the depths of the work freezer, or a trip to the less-than-stellar cafeteria, remember that you were smart and made yourself your own frozen meal.
Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo
1 pound penne pasta
1 to 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, prepared as desired
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, minced/crushed
1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated (plus extra for serving)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
8 ounces frozen broccoli (see Recipe Note)
Prepare chicken breasts as desired. I recommend butterflying and seasoning with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and pan-frying in olive oil over medium heat about 8 to 10 minutes or until it's no longer pink and juices run clear when sliced. Transfer cooked chicken to a cutting board and let rest before slicing into strips.
Cook pasta until barely al dente. Before draining, save 1/2 cup of pasta water.
Meanwhile, add cream, garlic, and butter to small saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Heat on low, stirring occasionally, until garlic is soft and fragrant and butter had melted. Do not boil.
Return pasta to pot and turn heat on to medium-high. Add reserved pasta water and sprinkle with half the Parmigiano Reggiano, mixing well. Add sauce and rest of cheese. Continue mixing until well-coated and sauce reduces, about 3 to 5 minutes. Toss in chicken.
To freeze: Place 1 cup of pasta, plus 4 to 6 slices of chicken and 4 to 6 florets of frozen broccoli (or as desired) in flat, freezer- and microwave-safe containers. Freeze up to 1 month.
To reheat: Add about 1 tablespoon of cream, milk, or water. Microwave with lid ajar on high heat for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Stir, then microwave for 1 minute more.
- The frozen broccoli makes this really simple, although it won't take too much more time to cut and steam some fresh or pre-cut florets. And you can toss the broccoli with the rest of the good stuff. Adding the already frozen broccoli is quick, although you will have to take the size of your container into account (since it won't be as yielding as the steamed, hot broccoli).
(Image credits: Karla Conrad)