Maddy has a serious macaroni and cheese addiction. Actually I think the whole Evolving Family does, it just seems some family members are better at suppressing their desires for pasta covered in cheese. Those family members are taller and generally do all the cooking. So not too long ago Luke and I started daydreaming about cheesy deliciousness. Of course our macaroni and cheese daydreams included quite a bit more than boxed Annie’s Homegrown shells and powdered white Cheddar cheese.
Words like smoked Gouda, bacon, chicken and roasted red pepper floated through our conversation and before we knew it I was rushing off to the store to make our dreams a reality. It isn’t everyday I can make our dreams come true just by making dinner but when I can it’s a good day for sure.
Chicken Bacon Macaroni and Cheese Ingredients
5 slices cooked bacon roughly chopped
1 pound whole wheat pasta shells
1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or tenders
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup brown beer or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup diced roasted red pepper
2 cups shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1/2 cup shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
Diced tomato (optional)
Switch on the broiler and position the rack in the center of the oven.
Heat grill. Mix smoked paprika, chili powder and salt in a small dish. chicken evenly with paprika mixture. Grill chicken over medium heat, turning occasionally, until insides are no longer pink, juices run clear and the chicken breasts reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut chicken into 1/2 inch to 1 inch size cubes.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the pasta and cook 1 minute less than the package instructions call for.Pasta shells should be just shy of al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
While the pasta cooks melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent about 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir for 1 minute. Add the beer to the pan and whisk untill the flour is incorporated into the beer. Then add the milk. Bring the liquid mixture to a boil and cook, whisking until sauce begins to thicken, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add in the gouda and cheddar cheeses and stir until melted. Add the bacon, chicken, roasted red pepper into the sauce and stir. Add the pasta to the sauce pan and gently fold in the shells until coated. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a casserole or baking dish and place in the oven to broil. Broil until bubbling and lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Serve warm with diced tomato as a garnish.
As an alternative, you can also broil the macaroni and cheese in individual casserole or souffle dishes and then garnish and serve as individual servings. World Market has some adorable, and colorful, souffle dishes perfect for serving individual servings to a few people or a crowd. Not that World Market knows I’m hawking their bakeware. I just love my orange and yellow ramekins and day dream of having them in all the colors. Sigh.