This creamy pasta combines the fresh bite of broccoli with grilled chicken in a creamy almond milk and pesto sauce, and is equally good served hot or chilled.
This post is brought to you by Almond Breeze
You don’t find balance, you create it. Everything in moderation. Too much of a good thing, is, well, too much.
These are all sayings to live by. I try. I really do try. But sometimes life gets the better of me and I find that little purple devil-horned emoji dude sitting square on my shoulder whispering in my ear, “You can have it. It’s just one bite. It’s not like it’s gonna kill you.”
But then that one bite turns into a whole meal, and that then turns into one week, and that makes it that much harder to get back on track.
But that’s where this creamy chicken pesto pasta recipe makes its power play. It’s creamy in a totally healthful way that cures my comfort cravings. It’s fresh broccoli and whole grain pasta turn off my guilt-0-meter. And with most of the ingredients simple to stock in the fridge, freezer and pantry, preparing it is far from a weeknight chore.
I’m reluctant to call this pasta recipe a pasta salad in the traditional sense, but it is a hybrid that works exactly in that way. This all-in-one pasta delivers several of the major food groups in one bowl. Protein, whole grain and vegetables in each bite. But where it really shines is in its flexible serving ways where it plays well for a hot main dish for dinner one night, and is just as easily served as a chilled, light lunch for book club. And of course for you book clubbers, it pairs wonderfully with wine.
Where pasta sauces made with a traditional cream sauce often thicken and or separate when chilled in the fridge, this one made with Almond Breeze Almondmilk Cashewmilk Original Unsweetened makes it just as pleasurable to be enjoy as a chilled pasta salad, or as-is, hot from the pan and onto the dinner plate.
I hadn’t tried Almond Breeze’s almond cashew blend before talking with a few other bloggers who shared it’s a great option for recipes with a creamy sauce because it is indeed creamier than regular almond milk. And with 25 calories per cup, that’s a creamy bite I won’t say no to. To thicken the sauce even more, I mix ½ cup of the almond cashew milk blend in a small jam jar (fitted with a lid) and add all-purpose flour to it, shake it up well (with the lid on, of course), then pour the thickener into the almond milk as it cooks down. Store-bought pesto adds all the herby flavor needed to the sauce. Of course, homemade pesto works great too.
I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs in this recipe, but feel free to use skinless chicken breasts if you prefer, but you’d only need 2-3 breasts, if so.
This is definitely one of those recipes where impulse vegetable ingredient additions or substitutions are welcome. Zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower, peas, corn, different styles or colors of peppers, and butternut squash would all make this recipe sing for our supper.
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Creamy Chicken Pesto Penne with Broccoli
- 6 boneless , skinless chicken thighs
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil , divided
- 1 pound penne pasta noodles
- 2 cups small-cut broccoli florets
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4 cloves garlic , pressed or mined
- 1 medium red bell pepper , (about 1 cup), diced
- 2 ½ cups Almond Breeze Almondmilk Cashewmilk Original Unsweetened
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 1 4 to 5 ounce jar basil pesto
- Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish if desired
- Fresh basil leaves for garnish
- Trim the chicken thighs of any extra fat and season both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a 10-inch skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add the chicken breasts (you may need to cook in batches with the additional tablespoon of olive oil) being sure not to crowd the chicken. Cook on each side for 5 minutes or until golden brown on each side. Transfer to a platter to rest. Wipe out the skillet and save to cook the creamy sauce in.
- Meanwhile, bring a large stock pot of water to a boil and season generously with kosher salt. Add the pasta noodles and cook according to the package directions or until al dente. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the noodles to a colander to drain and reserve the pasta cooking water in the pasta cooking pot. Add the broccoli to the pasta water and cook for 1 minute, then drain over the pasta noodles and transfer to a large bowl.
- Melt the butter in the reserved skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the red bell pepper and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the pepper begins to soften. Stir in 2 cups of the almond cashew milk, reserving ½ cup to put in a glass jar fitted with a lid. Raise the heat to medium high, and cook, stirring often, until the milk reduces by one third. Add the flour to the jar containing the remaining ½ cup almond milk, cover with a tight fitting lid, and shake well to combine. Pour into the skillet and stir into the almond milk mixture, then cook until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Stir the jar of pesto sauce into the cream mixture until well combined, and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the pasta noodles and stir to combine.
- Slice the chicken breasts into strips and top over the pasta. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil if desired.
This post is part of a partnered series with Blue Diamond Almond Breeze. As always, thank you for reading and supporting companies I partner with, which allows me to create more unique content and recipes for you. All opinions are always my own.
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Is their an alternative for the butter?
Can I use regular milk!?
Does this freeze and reheat in microwave well? I a man trying to find healthy meals for My mother who is on chemo that I can cook ahead for her and put in individual containers to freeze so when I’m not there she can just heat and eat. Any recipe suggestions would be appreciated.?she is only allowed chicken and fish, no beef. Thank you
Made this for dinner tonight and it was amazing. Can’t wait to have it again soon.
Love this combination of two classic sauce staples. Everything turned out well and I like your idea of mixing in the flour via shaking versus trying to chase down the flour clumps in the pan. Thanks for the recipe! It’s another keeper.
YUM! Loving the versatility of this pasta dish, Heidi!
OMG! This pasta is sososo tasty I think! I will try to cook something like this around the weekend!
Sara @ Last Night's Feast
This looks super delicious!
This looks gooooooooooooooooooood! Perfect recipe for me as I’m upping my protein intake at the minute.
I’m so excited to try a recipe with almond milk. I just recently started drinking it but never thought to use it in my cooking. Amazing pictures on all the recipes too!
Adrienne | Appetites Anonymous
Yum!!!!!!!!!!!! Perfect recipe for dinner!