Baked Penne with Chicken and Broccoli

This warm and satisfying comfort food is perfect for a chilly evening and a great way to get some veggies into your kids. We love taking this recipe to potlucks -- it's always a crowd-pleaser. You can use whole-wheat pasta to up the fiber content, if you like.

PREP TIME: 15 minutes
COOK TIME: 40 minutes

3 cups broccoli florets
1 pound penne
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 1/4 cups 2% or whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cup grated Fontina cheese, divided
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 cups shredded chicken breast (we used the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken)
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Blanche the broccoli. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a bowl of ice water. When the water is boiling, add the broccoli florets and cook for one minute until bright green. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the broccoli to the bowl of ice water. Once broccoli is completely cooled, drain well and set aside.

Return the water in the pot to a boil and add the penne. Cook until very al dente (approximately 7 minutes), strain and return penne to the pot.

Make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter or oil in a medium saucepan. When melted, add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant. Whisk the flour into the butter and garlic to form a roux. Cook, stirring constantly for 1 1/2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, milk and crushed red pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking regularly, until thickened. Remove the sauce from the heat and add 1 cup grated Fontina, 1 cup mozzarella, and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Stir until the cheese has fully melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the broccoli and shredded chicken breast to the pot with the penne. Pour the cheese sauce on top and stir to combine, making sure everything is well coated in sauce.
Transfer to a medium baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Fontina, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and Panko crumbs. Transfer the pasta to the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve immediately.