Thursday, May 23, 2013

Grown-Up Mac n' Cheese

Comfort food: The food that cheers you up when you're feeling down, the food that brings back happy memories from your childhood, and the food that gives you a cozy feeling when you take the first bite. Growing up, my favorite food was always macaroni and cheese from a box.  I remember asking my mom to make it for me every day, and since I was such a picky eater as a kid, she was usually more than happy to do so. It was my favorite food to eat after school and it was the first thing I ever learned to make for myself--go me! Today, it still remains the comfort food I always turn to when I need that extra boost. But I've advanced a little and graduated from the boxed stuff to the real deal.

This recipe is fairly easy to make, and can be a quick go-to dinner during any night of the week. It might not be the healthiest thing out there, but it sure is delicious!

Let's begin!

  • 8oz medium shell or bowtie pasta
  • 1 large crown of broccoli (or 2 cups of frozen)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 2.5 cups milk
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Tip: Instead of buying shredded cheese in a bag, I suggest using block cheese and grating it yourself. This saves you a few extra bucks and since you can freeze the leftover block, you don't have to go out and buy a new bag each time you need it.


Chicken Breast
  •  Trim fat off chicken breast and season both sides with salt and pepper
  •  In a large skillet, heat olive oil for one minute
  • Over medium to low heat, add chicken breast to the skillet and let cook for 5 minutes
  • Flip chicken breast over and cook the other side for an additional 5 minutes
  • Allow to brown as desired and add more oil if the skillet begins to dry out
  •  Cut a small slit in the chicken breast to ensure inside has cooked
  • In a large pot, bring water to a boil
  • In the mean time, chop and rinse broccoli
  • Add a few pinches of salt to the boiling water, then add pasta
  • Let pasta cook for 8-10 minutes, or until desired texture is reached
  • Add broccoli and let cook with pasta for 3-5 minutes
  •  Drain pasta and let it sit while you begin preparing the sauce 
Cheese Sauce

*Sorry for the lack of step-by-step pictures here...I was too excited to eat and forgot lol*
  • Melt butter in a small pot
  • Add onions and stir for 2-3 minutes (doing this for too long can cause the onions to sweeten)
  • At medium heat, add flour and stir continuously for 2 minutes making sure the flour doesn't burn
  • Slightly lower the heat and slowly begin to whisk in milk, 1/2 cup at a time. Be sure no clumps remain
  • Lower the heat and while stirring to get rid of clumps, allow the milk to slowly boil for 6-8 minutes or until the mixture becomes creamy
  • Add cheddar cheese and stir until melted
  • Add Parmesan cheese and stir until melted
  • Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to desired taste
  • Pour sauce on top of pasta and mix
Tip: Make sure the pasta hasn't reached room temperature or the cheese will begin to clump. If this is the case, just add the sauce to the pasta over medium heat and stir until everything is blended together with a creamy consistency.

  • Add grilled chicken breast and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.


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