Growing up, I loved mac and cheese, although the kind I always had was from a blue cardboard box. As I’ve started cooking, I discovered new ways to take a childhood favorite and transform it into a more ‘grown up’ version.
This recipe is a standard method for making ‘grown up’ mac and cheese. If you don’t like chicken and broccoli, you can add whatever type of veggie or meat you like or even just eat it plain!
My inspiration for this mac and cheese was broccoli and cheddar soup.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound chicken breast tenders, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 pound cavatappi pasta (or any short cut of pasta)
- 2 1/2 cups raw broccoli florets
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 quart milk (can do 3 cups milk and 1 cup chicken stock if you want a lighter cheese sauce)
- 3 cups yellow sharp Cheddar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Preheat the broiler.
Place a pot of water on to boil for pasta.
Heat a medium pan over medium to medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and chicken and season with salt and pepper. Sauté a couple of minutes then add onion and garlic then cook another 5 to 7 minutes until onions are tender and chicken is cooked through. Turn off heat and reserve.
To boiling pasta water, add pasta and salt to season the cooking water. Cook 5 minutes, then add broccoli and cook 3 minutes more or until pasta is cooked to al dente and florets are just tender.
While pasta cooks, heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add butter and melt, then add flour and whisk together over heat until roux bubbles then cook a minute more. Whisk in milk and raise heat a little to bring sauce to a quick boil. Add the cayenne, paprika and nutmeg then simmer sauce to thicken about 5 minutes.
Drain pasta and broccoli florets. Add back to pot and add chicken to the pasta and broccoli.
Add cheese to milk sauce (save a little for the topping) and stir to melt it in, about a minute or so. Stir in mustard and season sauce with salt and pepper.
Pour sauce over chicken and broccoli and cooked pasta and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings, transfer to a large serving platter and top with remaining cheese.
Put the platter in the broiler for about 2 minutes or until the top is bubbling/light brown.
Verdict: This is definitely one of my favorite mac and cheeses that I’ve cooked; it’s easy to make and packed with flavor. If you are craving some comfort food, make this recipe – it will make you feel better instantly! If you are cooking for 2 people, you should still make the entire batch because leftovers are just as delicious.
Here is the link to the original recipe (which I make a few tweaks to):