Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

4.94 from 15 votes
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Can’t decide what to make for dinner? How about chicken and broccoli pasta with a delicious lemon cream sauce. This recipe is quick and easy; if you’re lucky, you’ll have leftovers to enjoy again.

Chicken and broccoli pasta in a large pan.

Like my chicken spinach pasta, I make this chicken and broccoli pasta to pack protein and vegetables into one hearty bowl. The lean meat is quickly seared until golden brown and juicy. Then, a creamy sauce is made in the same pan. You’ll be surprised that preparing each component only takes a few minutes.

Spiral rotini pasta is perfect for coating the velvety sauce. Add the broccoli florets right into the same pot to save time and dishes. Just a few minutes for the noodles to be al dente, then just add the vegetables. Toss everything together in the citrusy alfredo sauce, and you have a delicious meal.

Recipe ingredients

Pre-portioned ingredients with labels to make chicken broccoli pasta.
  • Pasta: I use short-cut spiral pasta called rotini, which has a large surface area for the cream sauce to coat. If desired, you can use other types of pasta like penne, elbows, or shells. Just make sure to use 8 ounces of dried pasta. The volume can vary depending on how small or big the shape is.
  • Broccoli: Cut the head of broccoli into smaller florets, about 1-inch pieces. This size will give distinguishable bites without turning into mush while quickly tenderizing in the boiling water.
  • Chicken: Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut them into 1-inch pieces for quicker cooking. I like to have hearty bites in the dish.
  • Sauce: For a zesty and creamy taste, combine minced garlic, heavy whipping cream, chicken stock, parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and juice.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Cook the pasta and broccoli

Broccoli florets and rotini cooking together in a pot of water.

Step 1: Cook the pasta in boiling salted water to avoid tasting bland. The pasta should not yet be al dente when adding in the vegetables. Add the broccoli and blanch the florets until they turn bright green and crisp-tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Make sure to keep some of the starchy pasta water to add to the sauce.

Step 2: While they cook, I like to prepare the chicken. Season the diced chicken pieces with salt and pepper to enhance the savory flavor.

Cook the chicken

Pieces of chicken in a pan with golden seared surfaces.

Step 3: Add the chicken to the pan and sear in hot olive oil. Place the pieces in a single layer to allow a golden crust to develop on both sides. The trick is not to move the meat. Let the heat do its magic to change the flavor and color. It only takes about 3 minutes to cook each side.

Make the sauce

Minced garlic sauteing in a pan with leftover chicken fond.

Step 4: Once the chicken is removed from the pan, we will use the flavorful fond on the bottom of the pan to make the sauce. Saute minced garlic in fresh olive oil until fragrant but not overly browned.

Pouring heavy whipping cream into a pot of sauteed garlic.

Add the cream

Chicken stock being poured into a large pot of cream sauce.

Add the stock

Step 5: Stir in the stock and a heavy cream with at least 36% milkfat to add body and richness without needing an additional thickening agent. The sauce reduces until it just clings to a spoon, about 5 to 6 minutes. You can always thin it out with some reserved seasoned pasta water if needed.

My creamy Alfredo sauce recipe is the inspiration for this sauce. However, I add chicken broth or stock to make it lighter in consistency. The result is still a luxurious sauce but with a more robust savory chicken flavor.

Spoon mixing salt and pepper into a large pot of cream sauce.

Step 6: Once the sauce thickens, stir in aged parmesan cheese. I also add lemon zest and lemon juice to enhance the dish’s flavor. Don’t worry. It’s not too tangy or overpowering. The citric acid in the fruit adds depth and heightens the savory taste. It also cuts the heaviness of the milkfat from the cream.

Toss everything together

Broccoli and chunks of seared chicken in a large pot with rotini pasta.

Step 7: Toss the rotini, broccoli, and seared chicken into the lemon cream sauce to finish the dish. Mix it all until completely coated. If you’d like to add herbs to garnish the dish, feel free to chop up fresh parsley, basil, and chives or sprinkle in dried Italian seasoning right before serving.

Flavor variations

This chicken and broccoli pasta recipe is easy to customize! Try these tasty ideas:

  • Chicken: This pasta dish works well with diced chicken thighs if you prefer dark meat. Use any leftover rotisserie chicken or shredded chicken to speed up preparation.
  • Spicy: Give the pot of pasta a spicy kick with red pepper flakes, chili powder, cayenne, chipotle, or sriracha chili sauce.
  • Cheese: Instead of parmesan, add nutty Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano. Stir in gooey mozzarella, cheddar cheese, or smoked gouda.
  • Herbs: Add an herbaceous note with freshly chopped basil, parsley, tarragon, or chives to the sauce or for garnishing.
  • Wine: Add dimension to the sauce with some dry white wine. Add about ¼ to ½ cup of minced garlic. Stir and reduce until almost dry, then add the cream and stock.

Serve this with

Frequently asked questions

Can you use milk instead of cream in pasta?

Yes, however, you will need to add a thickening agent like a flour roux or cornstarch slurry. If you try to reduce milk that is low in fat and high in protein, it will curdle.

How do you cook chicken before putting it in pasta?

Sear the chicken breast pieces in hot oil before adding them to the pasta. The pieces should be cooked throughout. You could also shred or chop up leftover chicken to add to the dish.

Can I use frozen broccoli?

You can add frozen broccoli directly to the boiling pasta water. You may need an extra minute or two to melt the ice. Use the same amount of frozen as fresh florets.

Browned chicken pieces and broccoli mixed with rotini pasta.

Does lemon juice make cream curdle in the pasta sauce?

Heavy whipping cream is at least 36% milkfat, which produces a higher ratio of fat-to-casein globular proteins. This percentage of milkfat makes it harder for the proteins to form curds (the undesirable grainy texture) and yields a much smoother cream sauce. This recipe only adds 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, so the risk of curdling is also lower.

Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

Feed your family a delicious dinner with chicken and broccoli pasta tossed in a flavorful lemon cream sauce.
4.94 from 15 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients 
 

  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
  • 8 ounces dried rotini, 2 ½ cups
  • 3 cups broccoli florets, 1” pieces
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup unsalted chicken stock, or broth
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions 

  • Cook the Pasta and Broccoli – In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add 1 ½ teaspoon salt, and stir to dissolve. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes, or according to the manufacturer's directions.
    A few minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broccoli florets. Cook until bright green and tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of starchy water to make the cream sauce. Drain the pasta and broccoli.
  • Prepare the Chicken – Cut the chicken breast into about 1-inch cubes and season with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  • Cook the Chicken – Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken in a single layer, and cook without moving until the surfaces are golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a clean bowl.
  • Saute the Garlic – Heat the same skillet used to cook the chicken and adust to low heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and minced garlic, and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  • Reduce the Cream – Stir in the heavy cream, chicken stock, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Frequently scrape the sides and bottom of the pan to ensure the cream does not curdle. Reduce the sauce until it just starts to thicken and lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Finish the Sauce – Turn off the heat and stir in the grated parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and lemon juice. If the sauce is too thick, add some reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency—season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Combine and Stir – Add the pasta, broccoli, and chicken to the sauce and stir to combine. Serve hot.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About 8 cups
  • Serving Size: About 1 ⅓ cup
  • Storing: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Reheating: Reheat in a microwave on the high setting in 30-second increments until hot, stirring in between.
  • Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute gluten-free pasta.
  • Using Frozen Broccoli: Defrost 3 cups of frozen broccoli. Reheat in the pasta water until hot and tender but not mushy.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 6 servings
Calories 407kcal (20%)Carbohydrates 7g (2%)Protein 22g (44%)Fat 33g (51%)Saturated Fat 16g (80%)Polyunsaturated Fat 2gMonounsaturated Fat 12gTrans Fat 1gCholesterol 123mg (41%)Sodium 876mg (37%)Potassium 523mg (15%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 3g (3%)Vitamin A 1255IU (25%)Vitamin C 44mg (53%)Calcium 157mg (16%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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