If you are looking for a warm, comforting dish with simple but tasty ingredients, you are in the right place. This cheesy chicken broccoli noodle casserole is packed with veggies, precooked chicken, healthy whole wheat pasta, and is easy to put together.
This recipe was originally published on February 18, 2014, and was republished in August 2020 to add better quality photos, re-test the recipe, and add more helpful tips.
Chicken, broccoli, pasta, and cheese, can you get flavors that are simpler and more delicious than that? I love bringing all the fresh ingredients together, throwing them in oven, and pulling out the delicious gooey cheese covered bake to serve piping hot. Just don’t burn your mouth on the cheese!
My kids absolutely love this chicken broccoli noodle casserole. Admittedly, I have kids who love their vegetables, but if you don’t, this casserole is a great way to incorporate some in their diets. You can convince your kids to like broccoli by pairing it with lots of cheese and chicken.
Cooking with the intention of leftovers
Casseroles are great for leftovers. Especially a cheesy one that you reheat in the oven. That second time around, the edges of the cheese always start to crisp up a little bit in that delicious way. If you know you are going to be busy all week, making a casserole like this is a great way to have easy dinners to just pop in the oven.
Vegetable rich noodle casseroles are also great for making ahead and freezing. Just make bake the casserole most of the way before cooling, covering it tightly, and putting it in the freezer. They store really well for up to 1 month. Perfect for expectant parents, surgical recovery, or just plain busy schedules.
The best part is that there are so many options! If you want something more complex in flavor, you could try this pasta bake with spinach and artichokes. Or for something that is easier to make gluten-free, this brown rice chicken casserole, with even more broccoli and mushrooms. And you can even go super simple and embrace the delicious cheese in this cheesy baked spaghetti. Just add a side salad or some extra vegetables and you are all set.
Making a roux
Roux are common component of thick sauces. Especially cheesy, creamy sauces. Cooking a fat with a starch (typically flour) creates a very thick base that broth, cream, or milk is added to for a smooth, velvety texture.
Making a roux can be tricky. You can’t ever walk away from it or it will go lumpy. Consistent stirring is very important. Here are a few things to keep in mind for a successful roux every time:
- Keep the heat low. You only want to cook the flour a little bit, not completely toast it.
- Add the liquid a little bit at a time initially. The roux will actually get thicker after the first addition of the flour, but keep adding a bit more at a time and stir constantly.
- A whisk can help. If you have a problem with lumpy sauces, a whisk might be useful for you while adding in the liquid. Just remember to get in the corners of the pan!
- Keep stirring until you remove the roux from the heat. It is all too easy for the bottom layer to cook a bit too much and become lumpy, even if all the liquid has been added.
A roux may be difficult and take a lot of attention, but it is definitely worth it. They are the basis of most gravies, thick stews, the classic bechamel sauce, and so many cheesy pasta dishes. Learning how to make a good one will take you far in cooking.
Chicken Broccoli Cheese Casserole
- 8 oz. (225g) whole wheat elbow noodles
- 3 cups (215g) fresh broccoli florets
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 shallot , finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic , chopped
- 3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
- 1 1/3 cups (320ml) reduced sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup milk
- 1 1/3 cups (135g) grated Parmesan cheese , divided
- 1 lb (450g) chicken breast , cooked and shredded
- 1/2 cup canned corn
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- salt , to taste
- chopped parsley , for topping
- Cook elbow noodles in salted water until slightly undercooked by 2 minutes. Place broccoli florets in the same pot and let it cook for 2 minutes. Drain water from noodles and broccoli. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray.
- In a big pan over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook over low heat until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally (about 2-3 minutes). Add the flour and stir well, cooking an additional 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat.
- Slowly whisk in the chicken broth until well combined over medium heat, then add the milk and bring to a boil. Simmer on medium-low heat, mixing occasionally until the sauce thickens (about 5 min).
- Remove from heat and add 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Stir until melted. Taste the sauce to decide if it needs salt.
- In a large bowl, combine the shredded chicken, noodles, broccoli, corn, cheddar cheese, and the sauce. Mix well until evenly coated.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is thoroughly melted. Enjoy!