I'm so glad that Jenn chose this macaroni and cheese for Dinner Divas because I've been wanting to make mac and cheese from scratch for a little while now, so this was a great impetus. This was also my first Rachel Ray recipe. Let me say, people often recommend RR recipes for beginning cooks, but I've found that they can be somewhat expensive and not very calorie-conscious, which is okay every once in a while. Not everyone can afford pancetta or prosciutto in every meal. I have to admit that I did get in the RR mode and asked Joe to pass me the "S&P".
Anyway, back to the macaroni and cheese, which was very good. I managed to let the sauce boil over onto my range top, so that wasn't too much fun to clean up, but otherwise this is a nice easy 30-minute meal. My sauce came out a little soupy, which could've been because I used a little less pasta than the recipe calls for and 1% milk instead of whole, but that was also a common complaint on the Food Network reviews. Joe commented that it wasn't spicy enough, even though I doubled the cayenne pepper in anticipation of that criticism. I think he just needs to realize that there are other flavor profiles besides spicy. This isn't the most flavorful meal I've ever had, but it tastes like real macaroni & cheese.
Mac and Cheddar Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli
(source: Food Network)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan (You can definitely use less.)
1 pound chicken breast tenders, chopped (I chopped normal chicken breasts.)
Salt and pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound macaroni elbows or cavatappi corkscrew shaped pasta twists (I used 14.5 oz of whole wheat elbows.)
2 1/2 cups raw broccoli florets, available packaged in produce department (I just chopped up some heads of broccoli.)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (As I mentioned before, I doubled this.)
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cups whole milk (I used 1%. Does anyone still drink whole?)
1 cup chicken stock
3 cups yellow sharp Cheddar
1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
Place a pot of water on to boil for macaroni.
Heat a medium pan over medium to medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and chicken and season with salt and pepper. Saute a couple of minutes then add onion and cook another 5 to 7 minutes until onions are tender and chicken is cooked through. Turn off heat and reserve.
To boiling pasta water, add pasta and salt to season the cooking water. Cook 5 minutes, then add broccoli and cook 3 minutes more or until pasta is cooked to al dente and florets are just tender. (Brilliant! The broccoli turned out perfect!)
While pasta cooks, heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add butter and melt, then add flour, cayenne and paprika and whisk together over heat until roux bubbles then cook a minute more. Whisk in milk and stock and raise heat a little to bring sauce to a quick boil. Simmer sauce to thicken about 5 minutes.
Drain macaroni or pasta and broccoli florets. Add back to pot and add chicken to the pasta and broccoli.
Add cheese to milk sauce and stir to melt it in, about a minute or so. Stir in mustard and season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and broccoli and cooked pasta and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings, transfer to a large serving platter and serve.