There is something to be said for Kraft Mac and Cheese. That’s right. I said it. Come on people. You know you love it. It’s the cheesiest and it doesn’t stick to your cookware like real cheese does. I honestly and truly like, and sometimes I even crave the unnatural orange colored pasta dish in its blue box of goodness. However, there are times when a girl needs to eat mac and cheese made from scratch. This macaroni and cheese recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens website.
I loved the crunchy breadcrumbs on top of this dish. The sauteed onions and garlic mixed with tomato paste give the sauce a richer flavor that is more than just milk and cheese. I used 2% milk and half swiss, half sharp cheddar with a great resulting flavor. I cooked the chicken in chunks, but ended up kind of shredding it into smaller pieces before adding it to the cheese. The recipe calls for penne or similar pasta, but I used traditional elbow macaroni.
I was pretty hungry when we ate dinner last night, so my hunger could have contributed for my rave review of this pasta. However, Ben ate a chimichanga for lunch, so he wasn’t starving…and he had two helpings. This leads me to believe that this was a true culinary success. You could add broccoli to this for a little punch of vitamins and color.
This dish was pretty easy to prep and has a quick baking time. Consider these time saving tips to make life even easier.
- Use dry bread crumbs instead of fresh.
- Use rotisserie chicken.
- Use pre-shredded cheese.
- Cook the pasta earlier in the day and store it in the fridge.
Mac and Cheese with Chicken
- 1 pound skinless, boneless, chicken breast halves
- 1 to 2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 10 ounces macaroni
- 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cups 2 % milk
- 2 cups shredded cheese, 1 cup swiss and 1 cup cheddar
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 2 cups soft sourdough bread crumbs
- 2 ounces finely shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese (1/2 cup)
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. In a large skillet cook chicken, Italian or desired seasoning blend, salt, and pepper in hot oil over medium heat until chicken is no longer pink. Remove chicken from skillet; set aside.
2. In a large pot or kettle cook pasta according to package directions until just tender. Drain; return pasta to pot.
3. Meanwhile, in the same skillet in which chicken was cooked, cook onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons hot butter over medium heat until tender. Stir in flour until well combined. Stir in tomato paste. Add milk. Cook and stir until mixture is thickened and bubbly; reduce heat. Add the shredded cheese. Stir until cheese is almost melted. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add sauce and chicken to cooked pasta in pot; stir to coat. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart square or rectangular baking dish.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl stir together bread crumbs,Parmesan cheese, and 3 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle crumb mixture over pasta mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until crumb mixture is golden and edges are bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.