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Chicken And Broccoli Rotini (Pump Up Your Pasta)

Chicken & Broccoli Rotini

Chicken & Broccoli Rotini – Clean & Delicious®

Let’s talk pasta again.

Ever notice how easy it is to OVER eat pasta?

It just goes down SO easily!  And let’s face it, a serving of pasta is NOT exactly a lot of food.

Let me show you what I mean.

This, my friends, is ONE serving of dry pasta:

Dry Pasta.jpg

One serving of dry pasta is TWO OUNCES:

Glass Cup Pasta.jpg


Half Cup Pasta.jpg

Let’s put that into perspective, shall we?

Orange and Pasta.jpgThis is what a serving of pasta is supposed to look like.  Not a lot of pasta, huh?? (And by the way, that’s a medium sized orange) 

It’s no wonder why it is so easy to over eat pasta!!  Any restaurant easily serves at least four times that portion as a meal, and who can blame them?  I mean, if you went out to dinner and were served a TRUE PORTION of pasta, wouldn’t you be looking for the rest of the meal??  I know I would.

Bottom line: There is NO WAY one serving of pasta would fill me up.  I mean, am I alone here??  Would that fill YOU up??  (by the way, if you’re answer is yes, I think I might hate you.)


First let me say that I’ve learned the hard way (or at least the long way) that eliminating foods from my diet doesn’t work.  The more I try to “fight” food, the more food I tend to eat (I like to call this the all OR nothing effect).  The minute I say I’m not eating pasta any more, is the same minute I will go out and eat a box of it.

Secret Tip #1 – This is NOT about making pasta the enemy.

So what I try to do is tune into my body and LISTEN to what works and doesn’t work for me (this takes practice but I’m getting better and better at it.)

The three simple steps I usually follow when it comes to pasta are:

1.  Start with a Whole Grain Pasta:


There are lots of different levels of whole grain pastas out there.  Some (ie. Ezekiel – which nutritionally speaking is a power house) can be much heartier and “grain-ier” than others and may not the best place to start especially if you are new to the world of whole grain pasta.

On the other hand, a blended pasta like Barilla Plus is a great start for anyone looking to upgrade their pasta.  It offers more protein and fiber (2g fat, 38g carbs, 4g fiber, 10g protein) than white pasta and although the first ingredient listed is semolina (a.k.a. white flour) it is followed by whole grains like lentils, chickpeas, barley and oats.  The flavor and texture are a lot like traditional pasta, and my guess is that you could easily serve this to a “whole grain pasta newbie” without causing a stir!

Secret Tip #2 – Measure out the pasta portion BEFORE you cook it.  This is a big help for those of us who can’t keep our fingers out of the pot when cooking.  When things are pre-mesaured, you get what you get.

2.  Add source of lean protein:


In this case I’m using chicken (a head start ingredient that I
got from the salad bar at Whole Foods) but you could use any source of lean protein that
you’d like.  Some ideas might be ground turkey, 96% lean ground beef, shrimp, salmon, kidney beans, chickpeas or tofu.

Protein is not only a building block, but it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, so take your pick and have at it.  But remember… about three or four ounces is all it takes.

3.  Bulk it all up with VEGGIES, VEGGIES, VEGGIES:


I went with a family favorite, broccoli, and I wasn’t stingy about it.  Use any non-starchy veggies that you like.  Perhaps some zucchini, spinach, bell peppers, onions, chard, kale, or cauliflower – use whatever you’ve got on hand.  This is where you can really bulk up the meal, and the nutrients, without adding a lot of calories, so I encourage you to go BUCK WILD!

I also tossed in a handful of tomatoes… YUM!


Just to give you a visual perspective on the serving sizes, here is the whole family together:


Not sure if you can tell, but there is twice as much broccoli as there is any other ingredient; and by the way, this is for one serving.

Okay, so once you’ve got your whole grain pasta, lean protein source, and lots of veggies in place, you can add whatever “flavor boosters” you like.  These are the GO-TO-BASICS that I ALWAYS have on hand:

Flavor Fixin's.jpg

Low sodium chicken broth, olive oil, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper.  I promise, if you keep these very minimal “flavor boosters” on hand you will ALWAYS be able to make something d’lishes on the fly!


By following these simple rules of thumb, I can take ONE serving of pasta from this:

Plain Side.jpg

To this:

Full Pasta.jpg
Full side2.jpg

In about fifteen minutes flat!  Pretty cool, huh?

Now THAT is a serving of pasta that I can deal with;).

SO, I turn the mic over to you guys…
Do you have any tricks or tips that you use when it comes to eating pasta??  Any favorite dishes??  Let’s discuss…

P.S.  I did another post on this topic a few months back.  If you want a little more scoop on this topic/theory, check out my “Whole Wheat Penne w/ Salmon and Greens” video post.

Chicken And Broccoli Rotini

Yield: Serves 1

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 2 oz. dry whole grain pasta (I used Barilla Plus)
  • 2 tsp of olive oil
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 3 oz. COOKED chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 cups of broccoli florets
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup low sodium chicken broth
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat one teaspoon of olive oil in a medium non-stick sauté pan.  Add chicken, garlic, and red pepper flakes to the pan and cook for about two or three minutes or until the chicken is lightly browned.

Stir in the broccoli, tomatoes and chicken broth and pop a lid on he pan.  Cook for three or four minutes or until the broccoli is just tender (I like to leave the broccoli very al dente!).

Remove the lid and toss the pasta with the veggie mix.  Top with lemon zest, and one teaspoon of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Serves one.

Nutrients per recipe: Calories: 439; Total Fat: 12.5g; Saturated Fat: 1.5g; Cholesterol: 45mg; Carbohydrate: 53.2g; Dietary Fiber: 5.5g; Sugars: 6.5g; Protein: 33.5g

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6 comments on “Chicken And Broccoli Rotini (Pump Up Your Pasta)

  1. I loved how you dispelled the pasta is bad for you myth! This post shows how it can be a great aditon to a healthy diet. So easy I could make it! Thanks Dani!!

  2. It is really true, the more you try to avoid something the more you crave it. I have been a big fan of your well rounded meal philosophy and this is a dish with perfect balance. My Indian taste buds have always loved beans in the form of curry but now I add them to a pasta dish with the basics that you mentioned and they make the dishes a whole lot complete and filling. Of course bulking them with Veggies is another important factor!

  3. Made this last night and it was delish!! Can’t wait to eat it again for lunch!!!

  4. I’ve made this twice with left over chicken and my family loves it!!! I put a little more pasta and less tomatoes in the kids bowls though. It’s fast for busy nights!!

  5. Just finished Wright now this, and it’s so goood!:D
    I love the pasta, and this is a good solution.

  6. Delicious! Added extra veggies (zucchini and red onion) and sprinkled with feta crumbles to serve. Amazing how little you need in the ways of ingredients to complete a satisfying and tasty meal! Kids loved it too.. Five stars in my book!

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