We have been in the mood for decadent mac & cheese ever since our visit to S'Mac in NYC. Especially my husband. We joke that in our house, food is a 6th love language. I have a great recipe for a simple mac & cheese that is a perfect BBQ side dish, but we were craving something richer, heartier, and main dish worthy.
I set out to create my own original homemade macaroni & cheese recipe, inspired by the delicious dishes we had at S'Mac. We were quite happy with the flavorful and creamy result!
3 cups uncooked whole wheat bowtie pasta (I used Barilla Plus Farfalle)
large handful fresh baby spinach
2-3 chicken breasts, chopped
4-5 slices bacon, chopped (you can substitute turkey bacon)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour (can also use all purpose, but I like the added nutty flavor of whole wheat)
3 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon paprika
Fresh ground pepper
2 cups sharp shredded cheddar (separated)
1 cup shredded fresh parmesan
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used homemade)
Boil a pot of salted water and add uncooked pasta. Boil for 10 minutes or until tender. Add spinach and boil for an additional 2 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, chop chicken breasts into bite size pieces. Spray a deep skillet with olive oil and saute chicken over medium heat until lightly browned and cooked through. Set aside in a bowl. Add the chopped bacon to the skillet and saute until brown & crispy. Drain grease and put bacon on a couple of paper towels to soak up the rest of the grease. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add chopped onion to the skillet and saute for about 2 minutes. Add butter and stir until melted, then saute onions in the butter for an additional 2 minutes or until onions are tender. Add the whole wheat flour and whisk until fully mixed into the onions and butter. Stir for about 1 minute, then slowly add the milk, whisking constantly over medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat. Whisk in the cayenne pepper, paprika and salt and pepper. (I used a sea salt and pepper grinder and used about 3 turns of each.) Add 1 1/2 cups of sharp shredded cheddar and 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese and whisk until melted and well blended. Mix in the chicken breast and bacon pieces, then add the cooked pasta and spinach. Mix well until thoroughly coated.
Coat a large casserole dish with olive oil or cooking spray, and put pasta mixture into the dish. Sprinkle remaining shredded cheddar on top, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Cover and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are lightly browned.