I think there’s one basic truth in this world that we can all agree upon: macaroni and cheese is freaking awesome. It’s like pizza-even when it’s bad, it’s still macaroni and cheese.
There’s a de facto rule in my family that every holiday meal must contain at least one pan of baked macaroni and cheese. To not have it is a sin against God. And taste. And delicious flavor.
I do have a go-to recipe for mac-and-cheese that I like to pull out for such meals, and it never fails. But tonight, I was on my own and I wanted to make something that would a) use up some leftover chicken from last night’s sammiches and 2)have all my carbs, veggies and protein in one pot.
I ended up combining influence from my usual recipe and from this baked penne with cheddar and leeks recipe from Bon Appetit, and threw in a few other things I had on hand.
This is basically what I did:
1/2 pound rigatoni, cooked til al dente
1 leek, chopped and cleaned
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 c. mushrooms, chopped (I used cremini)
3 c. fresh baby spinach
1 c. shredded cooked chicken
2 tbsp butter
a bit of water
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tbsp flour
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp red pepper flake
2 c. milk
10oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400F.
After cooking the pasta, pour out the rigatoni into a colander and put the pot back on the stove over medium heat. Add in two tablespoons of butter and the leeks and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes or until soft and deliciousy. Add in mushrooms and cook a couple minutes more, adding in a tablespoon or two of water if things start to get dry.
Sprinkle in two or three tablespoons of flour and mix in thoroughly. Pour in the milk and cook until simmering. Add in 8oz of cheese and stir until well incorporated. Add in spinach and chicken, oregano, red pepper flake and salt and pepper to taste. Stir everything together well and finally add the pasta back in.
Butter or spray a 9×12 baking dish. Pour in pasta mixture and smooth out. Top with another 2 ounces of cheese or so. Bake at 400F for about 20 minutes. Eat. Smile. Eat more. Take a nap.