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  • Writer's pictureLydia Gerratt

Penne with creamy pesto, chicken and broccoli

Penne with creamy pesto, chicken and broccoli

This is not an Italian recipe – an Australian friend cooked this pasta dish for me about 15 years ago as a tasty tummy filler before a big night out. I loved the whopping flavours from the pesto, broccoli and lots of garlic.

I’ve been making this recipe ever since and I’ve used it for weaning both my little boys. I don’t usually cook with readymade pesto as I find it too acidic, but it’s perfect for this dish. The single cream dampens down any sharpness and brings out the basil flavour.

But the best thing is that the whole dish looks green, my boys love that.

Miraculous ingredient: Green basil pesto alle Genovese, good quality penne (Giuseppe Cocco is very good)

Penne with creamy pesto, chicken and broccoli


3350g chicken mini fillets

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 large head of broccoli (approx. 350g), cut into tiny florets

1 jar/190g of green pesto

200ml single cream

350g Penne – I like to use Guiseppe Cocco pennette rigate as they are small and it’s excellent quality

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to serve


Place a large pan that can hold a good 3 litres of water onto a high heat. When the water starts to boil add a teaspoon of salt and all the penne.

Put a large dry frying pan on a low heat to warm up as you get the ingredients ready. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Add all the olive oil to the warm pan and gently fry the chicken and chopped garlic for about 5 minutes. You want to cook the chicken thoroughly but do not brown too much as you want the meat to remain soft and tender. Once all the pink meat has changed to white/golden, remove the chicken and garlic from the pan and set aside in a bowl for later.

Add the small pieces of broccoli to the frying pan in which the chicken was cooked and ½ an espresso cup of water. Turn the heat to high and cook for 5 minutes to soften the broccoli.

Next, add the full jar of pesto and stir well. Add all the cream and stir. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for a few minutes. You might have to add a little more water if the sauce becomes too thick.

Once the broccoli is soft and to your liking, turn off the heat and stir in the cooked chicken and garlic. Adding the chicken back into the sauce once the other ingredients have cooked keeps the chicken very tender and stops it from becoming dry through over cooking.

When the penne are cooked al dente (soft on the outside but slightly hard in the middle), lift it out of its water with a pasta spoon and put it directly into the pan with the pesto, chicken and broccoli. Add a 3-4 tablespoons of pasta water to help create a sauce (the starch in the pasta water thickens the sauce). Serve with plenty of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Preparation time 10 minutes, cooking 20 minutes, serves 4

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