Pasta, Chicken and Broccoli Throwdown

The ingredients for this Spicy Penne with Chicken, Broccoli and Chopped Olives recipe are pretty basic and not at all unusual. To us, kalamata olives enhance any dish with their salty, rich flavor, while here, they add a welcome twist to a basic chicken and broccoli pasta.

Admittedly, I made numerous changes which are noted in the recipe below. I doubled the amount of chicken, garlic and red pepper flakes; increased broccoli florets, olives and grated cheese; and added a couple of minced shallots and grape tomatoes. I mean, serving up to six dinner guests (as the original recipe indicated) with only a 1/2 pound chicken breast and the other meager amounts, well the servings would be rather paltry indeed, me thinks.


Oh, and Good Lord, why would you throw away the garlic? In this family, that’s sacrilegious! I smashed the cloves into large chunks and left them in the finished dish. The Hubster and step-daughter ranted and raved about how good it was, and asked that I keep this in our regular rotation. I concur.

One issue with increasing a lot of the ingredients, I had to switch from a large nonstick skillet to a huge sauté pan when it was time to combine the pasta and broccoli with the chicken mixture. If you do not own a ginormous pan, one option to address this problem would be use two separate pans when combining, or cut the recipe below in half.

For a vegetarian option, omit the chicken and add red and green peppers, garbanzo beans, or any other legume or vegetable of your choice when the pasta and pasta water is added to the skillet.

Spice Penne with Chicken, Broccoli and Chopped Olives

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed into large pieces
  • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced in half horizontally then cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup (or more) pitted Kalamata olives, quartered
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 12 oz. broccoli florets, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano


  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, heat the oil, shallot and garlic in a very large skillet over medium heat, stirring gently so the cloves don’t break up, until they become light brown in places and very fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the rosemary and red pepper flakes and cook until they start to sizzle, about 15 seconds.
  3. Add the chicken, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring often, until the chicken loses its raw color, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the olives and tomatoes.
  4. Add the penne to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until just barely al dente, 2 minutes less than the package instructions.
  5. Add the broccoli and cook until it turns bright green and the pasta is tender, about 2 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and then drain the pasta and broccoli.
  6. Add the pasta and the pasta water to the skillet and cook uncovered over medium-high heat, stirring, until the pasta absorbs most of the liquid, about 2 minutes.
  7. Stir in the lemon juice and 1 cup of the Pecorino. Pour into a large pasta serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Pecorino.

Adapted from a recipe by Tony Rosenfeld from Fine Cooking

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