This recipe is an oldie but a goody. I don’t know what it is about cold weather that makes me crave cheesy food but Homemade Chicken Mac & Cheese always hits the spot. It’s easy, cheap (especially if you get WIC checks) filling… and emotionally fulfilling! Lol!! I made a big batch for dinner last night because I had a cup of shredded cheddar/jack blend leftover from taco night that badly needed to be used. I added a couple cups of sharp cheddar (half of the 1 lb block I had in the fridge from WIC… used milk from WIC too!), a box of pasta from the 99 Cent Only Store and a couple chicken breasts from the freezer. It turned out DELICIOUS …and convinced me to update the old recipe post with some better photos so I could share it again.
This is far from the healthiest meal I’ve made but sometimes you just need a thick, saucy, rich bowl of “Mac and Cheese” …although technically it’s “Rotini and cheese… and chicken!” It’s always a good idea to serve it with a salad and a side of veggies to make the meal a little more balanced anyway. Notice how affordable the ingredients are too. No expensive heavy cream or gruyere cheese. You wouldn’t know from tasting it but this recipe uses whole grain pasta, milk and whatever hard cheese you have on hand (or that is on sale!): Cheddar, white cheddar, Monterey jack, cheddar jack… But if you have the time and money to splurge on the golden baked Panko crust, you’ll probably be asking for my address to send a thank you card …just feel free to share your gratitude in the comments section at the bottom of the page instead! ;D
1 chicken breast, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 dash Crushed red pepper flakes
1 (13.25 oz) package whole grain rotini pasta
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
3 cups shredded cheese (white cheddar is best, but sharp cheddar is good too! I’ve even made it with Monterey Jack)
Special Splurge Ingredients:
(To make crispy baked topping)
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Cook pasta according to directions on box. Drain and set aside.
2. In large pot, cook chicken with olive oil over medium-high heat. Season with a dash of crushed red pepper. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until center of chicken is no longer pink.
3. Using a slotted spoon, scoop chicken pieces into a bowl and set aside.
4. Add butter to chicken drippings in pot and melt over medium-low heat. Whisk flour into melted butter and continue whisking for 2 minutes (to get rid of the “floury” taste).
5. Whisk milk into flour mixture. Turn heat up to medium-high and continue whisking until thickened. Add salt, pepper and ground mustard. Continue to whisk to mix thoroughly.
6. Add cheese and continue whisking until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth. Season as needed with additional salt, pepper and ground mustard, to taste.
7. Add pasta and chicken. Mix until everything is coated in cheese sauce.
If using Special Splurge Ingredients:
Pour Mac and cheese into a greased baking dish or casserole dish. In a bowl, mix together Panko bread crumbs, grated Parmesan, parsley flakes and melted butter. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture evenly over top of Mac and cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until topping is golden brown.
8. Eat. Yum!