05 September 2007

Baked Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is one of those yummy, slightly sinful dishes that everyone should make at least once in their lifetime. There's no comparison to the stuff in the box, and basically you just simmer some milk, stir in cheese, pour it over boiled pasta, and bake it until it's bubbly and browned. Actually quite easy!

This recipe has a few more goodies in it, like chicken and spinach and onion and garlic, to make it a wee bit heartier (and to get the Hubs to eat it). Oh - and I also decided last minute to layer some fresh-from-Muzzy's-garden tomato slices on top, then sprinkle with fresh bread crumbs. Deee-lish.

Baked Mac and Cheese


2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ lb. short, bite-sized pasta (penne, ziti, or orechhiette)
2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. milk
2 c. heavy cream
3 ½ c. cooked chicken, shredded or diced
2 c. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
½ c. Parmesan cheese, grated
8 oz. fresh spinach, washed, stems removed, and drained
2 Tbsp. fresh marjoram leaves, chopped (or 1.5 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. hot sauce
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a 9X13-inch baking dish.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir, and cook until it is al dente. drain in a colander and transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and toss to coat.

Melt the butter with remaining Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until transparent.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't brown.

Stir in the milk and cream, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by half and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 20 minutes).

Remove the sauce from the heat and add the chicken, Cheddar, Parmesan, spinach, marjoram, hot sauce, 2 tsp. salt, and tsp. black pepper. Stire until the cheeses have melted and the spinach is wilted. Pour into the bowl with the pasta and toss to coat. Taste for salt and pepper and season with more to taste.

Transfer the pasta to the baking dish, scraping all the sauce out of the bowl, and bake for about 45 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and the pasta is slightly brown on top. Let the pasta rest about 10 minutes before serving.

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