I can’t imagine that there are many people who don’t like a creamy, cheesy mac and cheese. Most days I make it as a side dish because it goes with practically anything. But this time I decided to add both chicken and bacon to this recipe to make it a complete meal in one.
I made my version a bit smoky by using two smoked cheeses, sharp cheddar and gruyere. The good thing about this recipe is that it’s super versatile. You can choose to use any cheese you want and it can be made without the chicken and bacon as well.
This turns out so creamy and delicious. There is nothing I hate more than a dry mac and cheese. That’s not the case with this recipe! Pure perfection!
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 box of pasta of your choice (I used Cavatappi)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups milk
- 6 cups shredded cheese (I used smoked Sharp Cheddar and smoked Gruyere)
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup panko crumbs
- 1 3oz packet Oscar Mayer Real Bacon Bits
- In a skillet on medium heat, brown your chicken pieces in a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until no longer pink. Set aside.
- Boil pasta in salted water until al dente, drain and set aside.
- In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add the flour and wisk until smooth and no lumps remain. Add in the salt and pepper. Slowly wisk in the milk.
- Bring to a simmer and stir often until sauce becomes thickened.
- Add the cooked chicken and shredded cheeses. Mix well.
- Add in the cooked pasta, mix until coated.
- Pour into a 9x13 baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a small frying pan, melt the 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add the panko and bacon bits. Cook until the panko starts to brown.
- Sprinkle panko bacon bit topping evenly on top of the mac and cheese.
- Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes or until edges brown and bubble.
Adapted from That Which Nourishes.
Thanks, it sure was tasty!
Hi Amanda! I want to make it tonight. By 1 box of pasta you mean a 16-oz box? TIA
Hi Anna. Yes, they usually range from about 14 – 16 oz per box depending on the brand and shape of pasta. Hope you enjoy it!
Can this be made ahead of time?? I wanted to assemble it during the day and bake in the evening. I was going to refrigerate it without the topping, making that while the oven heats. Suggestions on baking time from cold??
Yes, absolutely! If you’re crunched for time you can even skip cooking chicken breasts and use an already cooked rotisserie chicken to speed things up. I’d start by adding at least an extra half hour if you’re pulling it straight from the fridge and putting it directly in the stove. Hope this helps!
Wonder how it would be adding broccoli and how to cook it/when to add? If
Hmm, that’s a good question. Maybe you could add a bag of frozen broccoli to the whole mix before baking. Not 100% sure on that but it’s a thought.
This recipe is SO good. I’ve made it several times. I love how versatile it is. As we are lockdown today I only had penne pasta which still was delicious. I added a packet of ranch seasoning with chicken and bacon. Thanks for a great recipe.
I’m so glad you like the recipe Katherine. The ranch seasoning sounds like a great addition!
Jennifer Marshall says
Well, what I waste! After all that cooking, I have to throw it all away. 1 tablespoon salt is WAY to much! I looked at another mac and cheese recipe I use, and that only calls for 1/2 teaspoon salt. Not to mention that bacon is salty as well.
I am so sorry Jennifer! That was supposed to be one teaspoon and not tablespoon. I apologize for wasting your time and ingredients.