This dish isn't for dieters, but it is a crowd pleaser that can be prepared in the morning and baked at night. The recipe calls for cooked chicken, so you can dine virtuously the night before on grilled, roasted or broiled chicken and splurge the next night on this.
If the adults in the house find mac and cheese bland, this will change their minds. The pepper Jack is spicy and full-flavored -- so spicy, in fact, that it's best to use half Jack and half mild cheddar. If you like your food really hot, use all pepper Jack.
Make Ahead: The dish can be prepared up to 12 hours in advance and refrigerated before baking. Place the refrigerated pan, covered with foil, in a cold oven, set the oven to 350 degrees and begin baking. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dish is bubbly around the edges and starting to brown.
Servings: 6 - 8
- 8 ounces dried fusilli or rotelle (corkscrew) pasta
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups low-fat milk, warmed
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces pepper jack cheese, grated (1 cup)
- 4 ounces mild cheddar, grated (1 cup)
- 8 ounces cooked white-meat chicken, cut into stubby matchsticks 1 inch long, 1/2 inch thick (2 cups)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking oil spray.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain. Transfer to a large bowl.
While the pasta cooks, prepare the cheese sauce: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat; add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add 2 cups of the warm milk and the salt, whisking to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Slowly add all of the Jack cheese and 3/4 cup of the cheddar cheese, stirring to incorporate. If the sauce is too thick, whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk.
Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta and add the chicken; stir to combine. Transfer to the prepared dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges are bubbling and the top is starting to brown. If you want a browner top, broil for 2 to 3 minutes.
Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
From Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
Tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.