Creamy Shells with Chicken & Broccoli

Pasta + Chicken + Garlic + Broccoli + Cheese OOOOOhhhhhh my, oh my, oh MINE!

About this Recipe

By: Kelli South

I bartended in an Italian restaurant for a year and I have to say, that was one of the most dangerous jobs I have ever had.  Constantly being surrounded by pasta and cannolis was hazardous, but extremely rewarding.  One of my favorite dishes there was orecchiette and broccolini in a creamy parmesan sauce.  So I recreated the recipe with my own touches!


2 chicken breasts, bone-in skin-on

1 bunch broccoli, about 6oz trimmed (Cut broccoli about the same size to slightly larger than the size of the orecchiette pasta shells)

3 tsp flour

2 tsp dijon mustard

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/4 C heavy cream

1/4 C chicken stock

1/3 C parmesan cheese, grated

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 Tbsp butter

3/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

5oz orecchiette pasta (about 1/3 box) cooked according to pasta directions

Of all types of pasta, orecchiette is my favorite type of pasta to use for a parmesan sauce.  The little shells nicely scoop up that creamy, cheesy sauce like little spoons.  Plus, broccoli and orecchiette is a timeless Italian combo that love soaking up any flavors you give it.
When I want to add a crunch to a dish without adding any unnecessary ingredients I use chicken skin! That crispy, salty skin elevates the dish not only in flavor, but amazing texture!  And when I have a recipe that calls for crispy chicken skin I use my cast iron skillet.  There is an unbeatable texture cast iron gives to chicken skin is something that once you try, you’ll never go back!

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1

In a cast iron skillet (or regular sauté pan), heat up 1 Tbsp of olive oil on medium-low heat.  Season both sides of the chicken breast in 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of black pepper and garlic powder.  Once the oil is hot, place the chicken skin side down.  The chicken should sizzle and the skin should stick to the pan.  Once skin starts to crisp, it should begin to release itself from the bottom of the pan.  Cook until the skin is golden brown and crispy (about 10min).

Step 2

Flip the chicken over and continue to cook until fully cooked (15min).  If you have thicker chicken breasts and/or the skin folds over the sides, turn chicken on the sides for an additional 3 min for each side.  Once chicken is fully cooked, set aside to rest and lightly sprinkle with salt.

Step 3

In the same skillet, heat up 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil on medium-low heat.  When oil is hot, add broccoli and toss in oil.  Continue cooking for 3 minutes.  Add 1/2 tsp butter and 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Stir together butter, broccoli and seasons and turn up to medium heat.  Cook broccoli another 3 min.  The broccoli might brown or crisp on edges.  If it gets crispy or dark in color return heat to medium low.  Set broccoli aside.

Step 4

In the same skillet, on low heat, add 1 Tbsp butter and sliced garlic.  Lightly cook for 2 minutes, or until garlic is soft.  Add mustard and whisk in flour.  Cook, frequently stirring for 1 min.  Slowly whisk in cream and stock.  Cook, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened.  Add remaining salt and pepper and parmesan cheese.  Once cheese has melted, take skillet off heat.

Step 5

Stir in cooked pasta.  Once completely coated stir in broccoli and chicken.  Stir to coat and serve!

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