Baked pasta is so comforting and this version with broccoli and chicken is no exception with its light, fragrant sauce being quite unlike the sauces used in many popular baked pasta dishes.
Adapted from a Patricia Lousada recipe (from a book no longer in print), I’ve been making it for many years and as you can prepare the whole thing a day ahead, it’s convenient as well as delicious.
The original version is a bit time consuming and requires making stock from a whole chicken. Certainly do that if you have time but this version is a shortcut, using the best organic chicken broth that money can buy and a previously cooked chicken that you roasted yourself, or bought from the supermarket.
As an aside, I like to roast chicken in my slow-cooker for dishes such as this. I’ll put a stick of celery, half an onion and a couple of carrots in the bottom of the cooker, set a 4lb chicken on top that’s been stuffed with garlic, lemon and whatever herbs I have available; I then pour a glass of dry white wine over the whole thing and season the chicken generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Maybe adding a splash of water or chicken broth as well. Cooked on the ‘high’ setting for about 4 and a half hours or until the juices run clear, you won’t have a golden crispy skin as you do with oven-roasted chicken but as you discard the skin for this recipe, it doesn’t matter.
Slow-cooker roasted chicken yields about a pint (0.6 liter) of fragrant jellified broth (once chilled, fat skimmed off), perfect for making this sauce – but if you’re in a hurry it’s not necessary to go to such lengths.
BAKED PASTA with CHICKEN & BROCCOLI
A 4 lb (1.8k) chicken, cooked
1/4 pint (150ml) of dry vermouth
8 oz (225g) of broccoli
4 oz (100g) of butter
4-5 tablespoons of all-purpose/plain flour
5 fl oz (150ml) of crème fraîche
1 pint (0.56 liter) of really good chicken broth
3 oz (75g) of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1lb (450g) packet of short tube pasta such as rigatoni, penne or macaroni
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Butter or oil a large ovenproof baking dish.
Pull the meat off the bones of the chicken, discard the bones and skin (unless you use it to make stock for something else) and cut the meat into bite sized pieces – season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the broccoli until just tender then remove it with a slotted spoon and set it aside to drain. Chop the broccoli into small pieces.
Using the same water that the broccoli was cooked in, cook the pasta until it’s ‘al dente’. Drain and toss it immediately with 1 oz (28g) of the butter, then transfer the pasta to a large bowl.
In a separate saucepan, bring the vermouth and chicken broth to a low simmer.
Using the pan you cooked the pasta and broccoli in, melt the remaining butter over a medium heat then stir in the flour and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes (don’t allow it to color). Gradually whisk in the hot broth and vermouth; keep whisking, bring it to a boil then lower the heat and simmer it for 5-8 minutes stirring occasionally until thickened.
Remove the sauce from the heat and add all but one tablespoon of the grated cheese stirring well to combine, then add the crème fraîche. Stir in the broccoli and season with black pepper and sea salt to taste.
Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta in the bowl, fold in the chicken and gently stir everything together, making sure the sauce is well distributed.
Tip the lot into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top.
It can be make up to 24 hrs ahead to this point. Just cover with cling film and put it in the fridge.
You can also freeze it but make sure it’s well protected with foil if you plan on doing this. In both cases, bring it to room temp before baking.
To bake – preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Dot the pasta with a little butter and bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is tinged with gold and everything is heated through.