A cheesy baked chicken broccoli pasta casserole that makes for the perfect cozy and healthy dinner! This amazing pasta bake is made with tomato sauce, chicken breast, fresh broccoli, and shredded mozzarella.
The best broccoli and chicken pasta bake
Chicken broccoli pasta casserole is the perfect healthier family dinner, lunch, or meal prep. It’s made with simple ingredients like chicken breast, marinara sauce, parmesan cheese, mozzarella, broccoli, and spinach.
I have been making this pasta bake on repeat on Sundays. It’s perfect for a cozy dinner, football watch party, or date night! Plus, it only takes 30 minutes to prepare for any level cook!
Each bite of this cheesy chicken and broccoli pasta bake is heaven! The red tomato sauce, in combination with the parmesan cheese and spiced chicken, is out of this world delicious. Your family and friends will beg you to make this recipe weekly (personal experience talking over here)!
What makes this recipe healthy?
This chicken broccoli pasta bake is healthy and nutritious for many reasons. First, it is packed with lean protein from the chicken. Second, we sneak in vegetables and vitamins by adding broccoli and spinach. Third, we use less cheese than traditional casserole recipes. Fourth, this pasta bake can be made gluten free with brown rice pasta.
This baked chicken broccoli pasta casserole takes under 30 minutes to make with super simple ingredients. Trust me, you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry already. Here is a list of ingredients, so you have every prepared:
- Pasta: Grab one 9 ounce box of your favorite pasta. I used rotini, which is a spiral-shaped pasta.
- Broccoli: Adding 3 cups of fresh broccoli florets gives this chicken pasta casserole a healthy and fun twist.
- Olive Oil: To help saute and brown the chicken.
- Chicken Breast: We’ll use lean chicken breasts as the protein in this pasta casserole. It’s moist, juicy, and seasoned perfectly.
- Spices: For the best tasting chicken pasta casserole, we use a blend of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Spinach: I love adding spinach to just about everything! It doesn’t have a taste and is a great way to add nutrition to meals.
- Marinara Sauce: We use red tomato sauce to make this pasta casserole saucy and delicious. Typical pasta casseroles use a white sauce made from milk, cheese, and flour, which is what makes this recipe so unique!
- Chicken Broth: To help the chicken stay super moist while baking the pasta casserole.
- Parmesan Cheese: The flavor of parmesan is incredible. We add a little to help enhance the taste of this healthy pasta bake.
- Mozzarella Cheese: You’ll need 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese for this recipe. You can use regular or low-fat; both work!
Marinara vs pasta sauce
Over the years, I have gotten the question of whether there is a difference between marinara and pasta sauce. In short, they are very similar. However, marinara is a vegetarian tomato-based red sauce seasoned with simple herbs; while, pasta sauce is more complex and typically includes a variety of vegetables, meats, and other seasonings.
How to make baked chicken broccoli pasta casserole
This rich and cheesy chicken broccoli pasta bake is not only super delicious, but it only takes 30 minutes to make! In fact, this pasta casserole comes together in three simple steps: first, we cook the pasta and broccoli to al dente, second, we prepare and cook the chicken, and third, we bake everything in the oven. Here are detailed step-by-step instructions for any level cook:
Step 1: First, preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Step 2: Next, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta. Cook according to package until pasta is al dente (no more than 6 minutes total). In the last 2 minutes, stir in broccoli florets. Strain pasta and broccoli, run under cold water to stop cooking and set to the side.
Step 3: Then, in a mixing bowl, toss chicken pieces with paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper.
Step 4: Heat a large saute pan with olive oil to medium-high. Add seasoned chicken pieces and cook for 4 – 5 minutes total, until no longer pink on the outside. Add fresh spinach, mix, and cook for 1 – 2 minutes until wilted. Remove from heat and add pasta sauce, chicken broth, and stir.
Step 5: Add the cooked pasta, broccoli, parmesan cheese, and ½ cup mozzarella cheese. Gently stir to combine, then pour into prepared baking dish. Top with the leftover mozzarella cheese and extra parmesan.
Step 6: Bake for 15 – 18 minutes. Then broil for 2 – 4 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly browned.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make it gluten free?
Yes, use brown rice pasta to make this pasta casserole gluten free.
Can I use chicken thigh?
Yes, you can use the chicken thing instead of the chicken breast. I recommend using 3 – 5 chicken thighs and cutting them up into bite-sized pieces. Make sure to remove excess fat when you are preparing the chicken thigh.
Can I use frozen broccoli?
I do not recommend using frozen broccoli. It will be softer and can get mushy.
Can I make ahead of time?
Yes! You can make this pasta bake ahead of time to serve at a party, family dinner, or event. Make the recipe as instructed, let the pasta bake cool to room temperature, cover in aluminum foil, and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to reheat and serve. Alternatively, you can prepare the pasta, place cheese on top, and wait to bake until you are ready to serve – this method yields the freshest melted cheese.
How to store leftovers?
Store leftovers in the original baking dish by covering them with aluminum foil or in individual airtight containers for meal prep. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
How to reheat leftovers?
You can reheat leftovers in the oven or microwave. To reheat in microwave, heat individual portions in microwave-safe bowls for 1 – 2 minutes until warm. To reheat in the oven, place the original baking dish with aluminum foil on top in the oven at t 350°F for 10 – 15 minutes.
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Did you make this recipe?
If you make this recipe, be sure to comment and rate it down below. Also, don’t forget to tag me @healthfulblondie on Instagram and use the hashtag #healthfulblondie so I can see your delicious creation and share it with my followers!
Chicken Broccoli Pasta Bake
- 8 oz spiral pasta , rotini, regular or brown rice
- 3 cups fresh broccoli florets, cut into small florets
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large or 2 small chicken breasts, 8 ounces, skinless and boneless, cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 3 cups of fresh spinach
- 3.5 cups marinara sauce, I recommend Rao's
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta. Cook according to package until pasta is al dente (no more than 6 minutes total). In the last 2 minutes, stir in broccoli florets. Strain pasta and broccoli, run under cold water to stop cooking, and set to the side.
- In a mixing bowl, toss chicken pieces with paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper.
- Heat a large saute pan with olive oil to medium-high. Add seasoned chicken pieces and cook for 4 - 5 minutes total, until no longer pink on the outside.
- Add fresh spinach, mix, and cook for 1 - 2 minutes until wilted.
- Remove from heat and add pasta sauce, chicken broth, and stir.
- Add the cooked pasta, broccoli, parmesan cheese, and ½ cup mozzarella cheese. Gently stir to combine, then pour into prepared baking dish.
- Top with the leftover mozzarella cheese and extra parmesan.
- Bake for 10 - 14 minutes. Then broil for 2 - 4 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly browned.
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