Lightened Up Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Macaroni Bake
Yields: about 8 – 10 servings Prep Time: 25 minutes Total Time: 1 hour
A protein and calcium rich dish, with cottage cheese taking a main role in the creaminess. Parmesan cheese adds a deep flavor, perfectly blending ground chicken and broccoli for a kid friendly and nutritious meal!
10 ounces of macaroni pasta (can be gluten free, whole wheat or original)
1 cup roughly chopped chicken
2 cups broccoli
1/2 cup your favorite chicken broth
1 tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon butter (or oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground onion powder
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese (preferably not non-fat)
1 cup shredded or ground Parmesan cheese, plus 1/2 cup for topping
*for gluten free version substitute 1/2 tablespoon of arrowroot powder or non-GMO cornstarch
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cook macaroni pasta according to directions and set aside. Here, I also steamed the broccoli a bit with a steamer while the pasta water is boiling. It’s not crucial, but I feel it helps soften the broccoli a bit.
3. In a food processor, place the chicken and broccoli. Process for 30 seconds, careful not to overdo it and everything becomes too processed. You just want to eliminate large chunks of broccoli, and that happens pretty fast.
4. Heat a sauté pan with one teaspoon of butter (or oil) and cook the chicken and broccoli mixture. After about 5 minutes, mix in the salt and onion powder and continue to cook on medium heat.
5. In a small bowl, combine the chicken stock and flour (wheat or gluten free) until mixed. Pour into the pan with the chicken and broccoli and cook for a few minutes. Remove from heat.
6. In a larger bowl, combine the cottage cheese and 1 cup of Parmesan cheese. Slowly incorporate the cooked chicken and broccoli. Mix well with the cooked macaroni noodles.
7. Lightly grease a pan (I used a 10.5” X 7” – my favorite Le Creuset pan) and pour in the noodle mixture. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.
8. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes until bake is bubbly and cheese on top is lightly brown. Let cool for at least 5 – 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
This is one of those recipes that was born out of my desire to avoid that 3 p.m., “what the heck am I going to make for dinner” string of thought. I actually put it all together in the morning, and was able to slip it in the oven at 5:30 p.m. after getting home from the various practices and lessons that consume the after-school hour.
I chose cottage cheese because it is higher in protein, and less in saturated fat. Parmesan cheese adds a depth of flavor, similar to a sharp cheddar. I omitted any other cheese, as to keep it lighter. Additionally, while my taste buds enjoy loads of cheese, my stomach doesn’t. Two of my kids are also not fans of super creamy and cheesy dishes. I think it’s a texture thing. I say this because you could always add an extra cup or two of your favorite cheese if your peanut gallery (and stomach) is on board.
I ground the chicken for variation, and I like the ground chicken with the macaroni noodles. It’s a good combination. Yet, a second reason is also my petite little one who really is not a fan of chicken. I do see vegetarianism on her horizon. It’s not that I don’t agree, but I’d like to see her eat a little more nuts, seeds and healthy fats if she is going to boycott chicken.
I used a bit of flour to soak up some of the moisture, as there is no other binding ingredient (more cheese, eggs, etc.). Arrowroot or cornstarch are great alternatives to wheat flour as a thickener, and really work well. Just be sure to blend the liquid with the flour first to eliminate the tendency for the flour to clump when cooking.
Two of my kids enjoyed this with ketchup. Not my cup of tea, but it’s a win when everyone cleans their plates. I was so glad to have a warm and healthy dinner ready by 6 p.m. with little effort on my part. Plus, it’s even better for leftovers the next day!