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This Pecan, Chicken and Broccoli Pasta is a quick and easy dinner that is perfect for fall! The penne pasta is mixed with chicken and broccoli, and tossed in a light cream sauce (a lightened up version of a traditional cream sauce). The whole dish is topped with chopped pecans, making this easy dinner recipe your new go-to meal!
California is as seasonally challenged as I am with directions.
Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, because I’m actually really, really good with directions, but you catch my drift.
Three weeks prior to the official start date of fall, it was freakishly cool for California, and now, three weeks into fall, we’ve hit triple digits.
I’m over it.
Is it too much to ask for weather that permits a sweater (or even a shirt that’s not a tank–I’ll give a little) and a cozy fall meal?! Apparently. At least we can have the cozy fall meal of Pecan, Chicken and Broccoli Pasta even if it’s being eaten with the A/C on.
Despite the fact the weather is 100% not cooperating with me, this pasta dish totally is. It’s hearty and packed with proteins while also feeling completely like comfort food.
While everyone has a different definition of comfort food, I tend to associate comfort food with rich, creamy, and probably-not-as-figure-friendly-as-a-salad-is foods. You know, like mac and cheese or cheesy potatoes, or even something sweet like homemade apple pie.
However, this pasta dish completely hits the comfort food mark without being full of butter, creams, or cheese.
And, and, and! (I’m just really excited about this.) This dish is super simple to whip up!
First of all, let’s just talk about the star of the dish for a hot second: Barilla ProteinPLUS Penne Pasta. This fabulous pasta has 17g of protein and 7g of fiber, perfect for fueling your body for your active lifestyle.
For this dish, it was the only choice as the “foundation” of the recipe.
Chicken, broccoli, and pecans round out the dish, and pair beautifully together with the lightened up cream sauce. The pecans add a nice crunch to the dish while also giving this pasta a nice fall feel.
Lastly, the cream sauce is just half & half and chicken stock (and a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper). The sauce is brought to a boil, then reduced to low heat where it will ‘reduce’ and thicken up slightly. Because it is a lighter sauce, it is not as thick as a traditional cream sauce or cheese sauce; however, it is full of flavor and complements this dish perfectly.
I’m kind of nuts about this.
- 1/2 lb uncooked Barilla ProteinPLUS Penne Pasta, a little more than 1/2 the box of pasta
- 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
- 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into small pieces (seasoned to taste) (alternatively, you could also use rotisserie chicken or pre-cooked chicken strips)
- 1 1/2 cups pecans, roughly chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup chicken stock
- 2/3 cup half & half
- 2 tsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, making sure to salt the water and drizzle in just a bit of oil (this keeps the pasta from sticking together, as well as adds additional flavor to the overall dish). Follow the directions on the back of your box of Barilla ProteinPLUS Penne Pasta, and cook pasta.
- In the last two minutes of cooking the pasta, add the broccoli florets to the water.
- Drain the water from the pasta and broccoli florets, and return the pasta and broccoli to the pot. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, heat oil and chicken stock over med-low heat, whisking often. Once it reaches a boil, add in half and half, and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for a few minutes, whisking occasionally.
- Add chopped chicken and 3/4 cup of pecans to the sauce, simmering together for 2-3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour sauce with chicken and pecans over the pasta and broccoli, and cook over med-low heat just until everything is warm.
- Before serving, add in remaining 3/4 cup of pecans.