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Chicken & Broccoli Baked Ziti

Embrace Comfort with Chicken & Broccoli Baked Ziti: A Crowd-Pleasing Casserole

Prepare to dazzle your taste buds with a hearty and comforting dish that’s perfect for any occasion. Chicken & Broccoli Baked Ziti combines tender chicken, vibrant broccoli, and creamy ricotta cheese, all baked to perfection in a blanket of melted mozzarella and Parmesan. Whether you’re feeding a hungry family or hosting a dinner party, this flavorful casserole is sure to earn rave reviews. So, let’s dive into the recipe and experience the ultimate comfort food!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ziti pasta
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
  • 3 cups broccoli florets, blanched
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray or butter.
  2. Cook the Pasta: In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the ziti pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  3. Prepare the Chicken and Broccoli: If you haven’t already, cook and shred the chicken. Blanch the broccoli florets in boiling water for 2 minutes, then immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.
  4. Prepare the Cheese Mixture: In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, sour cream, egg, 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Mix until well combined.
  5. Assemble the Casserole: Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Layer half of the cooked ziti pasta on top of the sauce, followed by half of the shredded chicken and half of the blanched broccoli florets. Dollop half of the cheese mixture over the broccoli and chicken, then pour half of the remaining marinara sauce on top. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients, finishing with a layer of marinara sauce on top.
  6. Add Cheese Topping: Sprinkle the remaining shredded mozzarella cheese and grated Parmesan cheese evenly over the top of the casserole.
  7. Bake the Casserole: Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the edges are golden brown.
  8. Garnish and Serve: Remove the casserole from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley before serving.
  9. Enjoy: Serve the Chicken & Broccoli Baked Ziti hot and enjoy the comforting flavors of this delicious casserole!

Cook Notes and Variations:

  • Vegetarian Option: Omit the chicken and add extra broccoli or other vegetables such as spinach or bell peppers for a vegetarian version of this dish.
  • Creamy Sauce: For an even creamier texture, mix some Alfredo sauce with the marinara sauce before layering it in the casserole.
  • Spice It Up: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to the cheese mixture for a touch of heat.
  • Gluten-Free Option: Use gluten-free pasta instead of ziti pasta to make this dish gluten-free. Ensure all other ingredients are also gluten-free.

Keto and Low-Carb Versions:

  • Keto-Friendly: To make this dish keto-friendly, substitute the ziti pasta with zucchini noodles or shirataki noodles. Replace the marinara sauce with a low-carb tomato sauce or make your own keto-friendly marinara using fresh tomatoes, garlic, and herbs.
  • Low-Carb Option: Reduce the amount of pasta used or omit it entirely, replacing it with additional vegetables such as cauliflower florets or sliced zucchini. Increase the amount of protein by adding more chicken or incorporating cooked ground beef or turkey.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q: Can I use frozen broccoli instead of fresh? A: Yes, you can use frozen broccoli florets if fresh broccoli is not available. Thaw and drain the frozen broccoli before using it in the recipe.

Q: Can I prepare this casserole in advance? A: Yes, you can assemble the casserole ahead of time and refrigerate it, covered, for up to 24 hours before baking. Allow the casserole to come to room temperature before baking as directed.

Q: Can I freeze leftovers of this casserole? A: Yes, you can freeze leftovers of the baked casserole in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating in the oven or microwave until heated through.

Q: Can I use a different type of pasta for this recipe? A: Absolutely! You can use any short pasta shape such as penne, rigatoni, or farfalle instead of ziti pasta.

Q: Can I add other ingredients to this casserole? A: Feel free to customize the casserole by adding additional ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, or diced bell peppers for extra flavor and texture.

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In conclusion, Chicken & Broccoli Baked Ziti is a satisfying and flavorful dish that brings together tender chicken, vibrant broccoli, and creamy cheese in a comforting casserole. Whether you’re craving a cozy family dinner or hosting a gathering with friends, this recipe is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters. With its layers of cheesy goodness and wholesome ingredients, Chicken & Broccoli Baked Ziti is a delicious way to enjoy classic comfort food flavors without the guilt. So, gather your ingredients and prepare to delight your taste buds with this irresistible casserole creation. Enjoy!

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