Look, I’m not gonna tell y’all that this dish is healthy.
Instead of adding tons of butter and even more cheese (because, you know, a pound isn’t quite enough), I’ve added broccoli and chicken instead. And the combination of cheesy, gooey mac ‘n cheese with broccoli and chicken is divine.
It’s comforting without being an over-the-top, full-to-the-brim, can’t-eat-for-at-least-a-full-day kind of meal.
It might not be a health food, but it’s a darn good indulgence every once in a while. And if nothing else, you can tell yourself you’re eating some good veggies while also consuming all the “less good” stuff…
Here’s how you can make it:
Creamy macaroni and cheese, studded with baked chicken and broccoli for a leaner take on the classic comfort food.
- 1 lb . chicken tenderloins, , baked
- 1 13.25 oz . box rotini pasta, , cooked until al dente
- 1 large head broccoli, , cut down into florets
Cheddar Cheese Sauce
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1 heaping tablespoon grainy dijon mustard
- 1 egg, , beaten
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1/2 teaspoon salt-free Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
- 16 oz . extra sharp white cheddar, , shredded
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease a large baking dish for the macaroni and cheese.
- Season the chicken tenderloins with salt and pepper, and bake until cooked through. Remove from the oven, shred and set aside.
- Cut the broccoli into florets, and set aside.
- Boil the pasta until just cooked through. I like to leave mine very al dente so that when the mac 'n cheese bakes in the oven, it doesn't get too soft. (Set a timer when you drop the pasta in the boiling water so you don't forget!)
- In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the flour, stirring constantly for a few minutes until the mixture has darkened slightly into a blonde roux.
- Pour the milk into the roux, stirring vigorously as it thickens, then add the mustard. Stir until the components are combined.
- Temper the egg by taking a few tablespoons of the sauce and whisking them into the egg so the egg doesn't scramble when it hits the heated sauce on the stove. Pour the egg mixture into the sauce once tempered, and stir until combined.
- Lower the heat, and season the sauce with salt, the Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning and pepper.
- Add the shredded cheese to the sauce, and remove from the heat. Stir constantly until the cheese has melted into the sauce.
- Add the broccoli florets to the cheese sauce, then add the shredded/chopped chicken and the cooked pasta. Using a large spoon, stir until the ingredients have all melded together.
- Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the greased baking dish, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly and slightly browned on top.
- Enjoy warm!
This recipe can easily be frozen. When the ingredients are all together, transfer to a freezer-safe dish and freeze for up to 3 months. When it's time to eat, bake in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes (or longer, depending on your oven) and until the mixture is bubbly.
If you want to make this extra decadent, top the baking dish off with additional shredded cheese to brown as the mac 'n cheese bakes.
What kinds of comfort food do you crave during the winter months?