I like Mac and Cheese, but it is not one of my favorites, which is truly weird since I love pasta and cheese. I think most of them are just kind of "eh" and I'm always looking for a bit more flavor. I know, I'm strange, blame it on my German genes if you must. On the other hand, mac and cheese is pretty easy to fix and can feed a crowd fairly inexpensively. The few times I've made mac and cheese at home, I've played with different cheese combos and while they were all good and certainly edible, they didn't have me do cartwheels.
I haven't been very inspired to prepare meals in the last few weeks, but when I do feel well enough to cook, I'm usually looking for recipes that utilize either what I already have on hand, or make it easy for my husband (who has been a saint) to pick up a few extra ingredients on his way home from work at the grocery store. I found the recipe for this dish on Tasty Kitchen while I was looking for a quick dinner. It utilizes leftover grilled chicken breast that I already had in the refrigerator but this dish can just as easily be fixed with leftover rotisserie chicken as well. Sharp cheddar cheese, Gruyere and Parmesan add flavor along with crumbled bacon. Milk and heavy cream make this very rich tasting and certainly not diet food (which we will all need come January). Don't fret though, it does have a red bell pepper thrown into the mix, so at least you're getting a little bit of vegetables. However, they are disguised enough that even non-bell pepper lovers (like my daughter) will eat it without complaint.
This is a great dish that easily serves a lot of people. Add a side salad and you have a complete meal that even with all the hustle and bustle of the season is prepared in less than an hour and lets you sit down as a family and appreciate each other.
On a personal note, I wanted to thank all of you for your kind comments and emails regarding my health. I'm still not feeling well, but really miss blogging and all of you. I've made it a goal to pop in a few of your blogs everyday. So while you might not hear daily from me, I'm still around. :o)
If you haven't entered my Holiday Wreath Giveaway, make sure to do so soon, since it closes tonight at midnight and this giveaway is too good to pass up, especially for such a good cause! Also stay tuned for another fantastic giveway coming soon.
Chicken Mac and Cheese
1 pound elbow or corkscrew pasta, uncooked
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream (or half-and-half)
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and Pepper, to taste
2 - 3 cups cooked boneless chicken breast (grilled or rotisserie), chopped
6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
Boil water for pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and rinse when cooked and set aside.
In a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and saute onions and red peppers until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add butter and flour and whisk together to create a roux. Add milk and cream (or half-and-half), stirring constantly. Add 3 cups of the cheese mixture (reserving one cup to top the dish with ) and the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper and stir mixture for 5-8 minutes or until mixture thickens.
Mix cooked pasta with the onion/pepper mixture, the chopped and cooked chicken and the bacon.
Add half of the mixture to the greased baking dish and top with half of the cheese sauce. Add the other half of the pasta mixture and top with the rest of the cheese sauce. Sprinkle the dish with the reserved cup of cheese and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the dish is hot and the top is golden brown. Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
Adapted from: Tasty Kitchen