My Healthy Chicken Broccoli Ziti Recipe is real comfort food that reminds me of my childhood. It’s only now that I appreciate why my Mom used to cook it. It’s a hearty meal that easily serves all the family with plenty of leftovers to box up for lunch the next day. It’s also packed with protein from the chicken and fiber and nutrients from the broccoli. #Winner winner chicken dinner!
Healthy Chicken Broccoli Ziti Recipe Ingredients
At first glance, it may appear that this dish is too high in calories or carbs to be considered healthy. But fear not! I’ve opted for a moderate amount of parmesan cheese and only a scant amount of reduced-fat crème Fraiche.
The dish is bulked out with the chicken and a good helping of broccoli which means you can reduce the amount of pasta that is usually required for this dish. Bear in mind that a little pasta goes a long way because it expands so much during the cooking process.
I choose chicken breast rather than chicken thigh because it cooks quicker, is leaner and contains less cholesterol. Try to use the best quality chicken you can afford where possible. Chickens that are reared in high welfare environments are certainly better for human consumption because they live and are fed more naturally.
I love the distinct iron-rich and mildly bitter taste of broccoli. It tastes good eaten raw and the stems are delicious with a slightly milder flavor too. Broccoli is loaded with many vitamins, minerals and fiber meaning there are a myriad of reasons why eating broccoli is a good thing. Did you know that eating just 2 broccoli spears counts as one portion of the recommended 5 per day!
It’s always best to give the broccoli a rinse under cold water first, before cutting into bite sized pieces and cooking.
How To Make Chicken Broccoli Ziti
To make my Chicken Broccoli Ziti Recipe you’ll first need to prepare the chicken breast by slicing it into bite-sized pieces while you saute the prepared vegetables. Once the veg is lightly sautéed, add the chicken to the pan and fry over a medium heat until cooked through and slightly browned. Once cooked, remove from the pan and set aside.
You can then use the same frying pan to create your white wine sauce. Don’t be afraid to use the white wine for this recipe. All the alcohol gets evaporated and will add a delicious flavour as well as helping to remove all the lovely juices from the chicken that have been left in the frying pan. Once the alcohol from the wine has evaporated the chicken stock can be added followed by the crème fraiche to add decadence and to create a beautifully rich sauce.
While you are making the sauce you can get on with cooking the broccoli and pasta. Both these ingredients can be cooked together in a clean saucepan. This is always music to my ears if I know I’ll have less dishes to clean up afterwards. Start cooking the pasta first according to the instructions on the packet.
Add the broccoli 3-5 minutes before the end of the pasta cooking time and then once cooked, drain both into a colander. I prefer my broccoli to be al dente just because it adds another texture to the dish. You can of course cook it for a little longer if you prefer it softer. Insert a knife into the stem of one of the florets after 3 minutes of cooking to test whether it’s cooked to your liking.
The dish is then ready to assemble. Tip the chicken pieces, pasta and broccoli into the pan containing the white wine sauce. Add the parmesan and lemon zest and juice. Give everything a good stir before spooning into an oven proof dish. Sprinkle with the cheddar and then place under a pre-heated grill for 3-5 minutes until browned.
Serve immediately by spooning into warmed bowls and enjoy.
Healthy Chicken Broccoli Ziti Recipe Variations
Using turkey breast instead of chicken breast
Turkey is even leaner than chicken so use this if your prefer. It does tend to dry out more than chicken so make sure you don’t overcook it. It’s fine to use turkey in the same quantities as I’ve used for my chicken broccoli ziti recipe and can be cooked in exactly the same way.
Zita Pasta Alternative
Obviously, it’s tradition to use Zita pasta for a chicken broccoli ziti recipe and for good reason too! It works really well because the ridges collect all the delicious sauce. I have been known to use whatever I have in my store cupboard though. Penne, fusilli or rigatoni are all good. When my kids were small I used tiny little macaroni as it was easier for them to eat and chew rather than big pieces.
For an alternative healthy and delicious family mid-week dinner or crowd-pleaser, why not check out my Healthy Cannelloni recipe or my tasty take on make-from-scratch Beefaroni. Click the link for details or head over to my blog for more inspiration.
Chicken Broccoli Ziti Recipe
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves (finely chopped
- A bunch of spring onions scallions
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts sliced into 1cm strips
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 130 ml dry white wine
- 175 ml good quality chicken stock
- 50 g reduced fat crème fraiche
- 250 g broccoli about 1 head cut into bite-sized florets
- 250 g ziti pasta
- 75 g Parmesan cheese grated
- Juice and zest from ½ lemon
- 25 g Extra Mature Cheddar
- Heat olive oil in a large pan over low heat. Add the spring onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. This will take about 3 minutes
- Increase the heat to medium then add the sliced chicken and a generous grind of black pepper to the pan and fry until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. If any liquid remains in the pan after the chicken is cooked, drain this and discard
- Transfer the contents of the frying pan to a warmed plate, cover and set aside
- Return the pan to the heat and pour the white wine into the pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. This will add flavour to the finished dish.
- Allow the wine to bubble away until the liquid has reduced by half
- Stir in the chicken stock and continue simmering for 5 minutes
- Next add the crème fraise and give everything a good stir
- Return the chicken and spring onion mixture to the pan and stir to combine
- Check the sauce for seasoning and add more pepper to taste
- While the sauce is cooking bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the Zita pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, adding the broccoli florets to the pot 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
- Once cooked, drain the broccoli and pasta into a colander
- Add the cooked broccoli and pasta to the pan with chicken in white wine sauce
- Add the parmesan and the zest and juice of the lemon. Mix together until the cheese has melted
- Place in a large serving dish, sprinkle with the cheddar and grill until browned slightly. Serve immediately
What can I use instead of broccoli in Chicken Broccoli Ziti
Although not orthodox you could substitute the broccoli in Chicken Broccoli Ziti for another fresh green vegetable. Asparagus, peas, cauliflower or kale would all work and add vitamins and minerals to the dish. They could all be cooked at the same time as cooking the pasta too. You’d need to adjust the cooking time to avoid overcooked vegetables.