Recipe: Chicken and Broccoli Pasta with a Blue Cheese Cream Sauce

I spent this past weekend with John in Memphis, a place I enjoy more and more each time I visit. The city has a great food scene and there are so many restaurants to try. Memphis is about more than just BBQ and Southern cooking—there are restaurants offering up fantastic pizzas, tantalizing ethnic foods, delectable desserts, and more. We stocked up on cupcakes from Muddy’s (their mint icing is absolutely amazing), ate a homemade hot dog and pizza with Benton bacon at Hogs & Hominy, enjoyed cheesy bread at Houston’s, and got to taste an assortment of dishes from a variety of restaurants at The Dixon’s Art on Fire event. On Sunday night, we went to Boscos and I had a very tasty pasta dish with grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and a gorgonzola sauce. Tonight, I was thinking back on that dish when I peered in the fridge and saw a container of blue cheese crumbles left over from some salads I’d been making last week. I’m a big blue cheese lover—I love the salad dressing, I love it crumbled on a steak or burger, and I really wanted to use that box of cheese to make a blue cheese cream sauce. That sauce, tossed with chicken, broccoli, and pasta, created a flavorful, filling dish that was perfect for this rainy day that Sandy sent our way today.

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes total (approx. 2 min. for broccoli, 5-10 min. for sauce and chicken, 11-13 min. for pasta)
Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients
  • 1-2 heads broccoli, cut into florets (or approx. 2-4 cups broccoli florets)
  • 8 oz. farfalle, or other small pasta (penne, medium shells, etc.)
  • A pat of butter
  • Olive oil, enough to lightly coat the bottom of a large pan
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 1/2-1 cup blue cheese (more or less, as desired)
  • 1-2 tbsp. dried chives, or more as desired
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cornstarch and water mixture, as needed

Directions
In a medium pot, bring salted water to a boil, then blanch the broccoli florets (i.e. cook them for about 2-3 minutes in the boiling water). Drain them, then return them to the pot with cold water and some ice cubes (this will help stop them from cooking any further—the last thing you want is mushy broccoli). Add salted water to another medium to large pot, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions (about 11-13 minutes). While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter and olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat and add the chicken. Season with salt and pepper and cook gently until tender and no longer pink in the middle (about 5-10 min.)—toss the garlic in near the end of cooking. While the chicken is cooking, heat the heavy cream over medium high heat in a small pot. Once bubbling, add blue cheese crumbles and stir to combine. If desired, add a little cornstarch-and-water to thicken the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium low. Once the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and return it to the pot, then drain the broccoli and add it to the pasta. Add the chicken and sauce to the mixture, season with salt and pepper, add chives, and toss in an extra handful or two of blue cheese crumbles. Serve hot, with added blue cheese crumbles, as desired.

This dish, though packed with blue cheese, is not overpowering, but rather quite light and flavorful. Broccoli is always delicious in a creamy sauce, especially one with cheese, and chicken adds some much-needed protein. A dash of chives and an extra spoonful of blue cheese crumbles completes the dish. 

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