Recipe Review

Tuscan Chicken Macaroni and Cheese Is a One-Pot Wonder

published Dec 28, 2018
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(Image credit: Cafe Delites)

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I’m such a purist about macaroni and cheese that I don’t even like calling it “mac and cheese.” The abbreviation just feels wrong, like shouting, “Hi, Liz!” at the Queen of England. Macaroni and cheese is so perfect in its rich, unadorned beauty that I tend to be skeptical of any attempts to add things to it, even bacon. But there is an upside to riffing on a traditional macaroni and cheese recipe, because if you add some vegetables and maybe some protein, then you can eat macaroni and cheese even more often. For example, this Tuscan chicken macaroni and cheese has chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach, along with all the rich, creamy cheesiness of a great macaroni and cheese.

The author wants to clarify that this is not intended to be authentic Tuscan cuisine, but more “Tuscan from Olive Garden.” And it might not be traditional, but it’s rich and creamy and the whole thing — pasta and all — cooks on the stove in one pot in about 30 to 40 minutes. That means you will need a very large pot to make sure it can hold everything without spilling when you stir it.

It starts as many weeknight dinners do, with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Those are seasoned with paprika and dried parsley and cooked in the pan until they’re golden brown and cooked through, then set aside for later. In the pan with the leftover remnants of sautéed chicken, you’ll cook onion and garlic until it’s soft and translucent, then add white wine.

From that point, the dish starts to turn into a classic, American-style mac and cheese. A bit of flour is added to thicken the sauce, then chicken broth and milk are brought to a low simmer. Then the author says to put dry macaroni in the pot and cook the pasta directly in the milk and chicken broth, instead of boiling it separately and adding the cooked pasta to the sauce.

Because the macaroni will continue to cook in the hot sauce, you’ll have to time the last steps of the recipe just right so the pasta doesn’t overcook. Once the macaroni is cooked so it’s tender but still firm, take the pot off the heat and immediately add all the cheese. The author suggests Parmesan, mozzarella, and cheddar or Gruyere, but you could use any cheese you like. Then just cut the chicken into slices and stir that in, along with three cups of baby spinach, which will have just enough time to wilt nicely into the sauce while you dish the macaroni out and call everybody to the table.

Get the Recipe: Tuscan Chicken Macaroni and Cheese from Cafe Delites

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

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