I have a confession to make. I am in love with
macaroni and cheese. Actually scratch that. Penne and cheese. No scratch that. Whole wheat penne and cheese. It’s probably the only pasta I buy now. And in the dining halls here at Tech, I only get the pasta and meat sauce if they have wheat penne that day. Honestly, I think it tastes better (and the fact that it’s lower in calories and fat and higher in fiber doesn’t hurt either).
If I’m making dinner for my boyfriend, Kevin, and I, there’s a 90% chance it’s this meal. I am always wanting to try new recipes and use different techniques, but all he wants is “chicken pasta” (pronounced PAYsta). Broccoli is one of the few vegetables he eats – even though he still picks around them in this dish – so I throw them in there, along with the chicken. I can’t say I don’t love this mac & cheese, ’cause I do. It’s one of my go-to meals. Not only is it easy to put together, but leftovers are delicious. Give this recipe a try for your next date night!
Who would’ve thought adding EVOO, garlic, and S & P would add so much flavor to a vegetable that looks like a tree? And then on top of that, add a creamy, cheesy sauce? Your guests will be saying dumbfounded, “wait…is that broccoli in there?”
Not only does the whole wheat pasta make this infamously bad-for-you dish better for you, but I used skim milk instead of whole milk in the sauce. My roommates and I all like skim milk with our cereal, and in just about everything else. Let’s just say I’m not about to go buy a half gallon of whole milk when I only need 1 cup. I also used reduced fat cream cheese, well, because it was on sale. The life of a college student.
I have another confession to make. I forgot to take a picture of the sauce. My roommates are probably going to kill me if I say it one more time, but I can’t help it. I was and still am devastated. And I apologize for not having a picture of that step for y’all. Please forgive me.
Mac & Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli: (adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow)
- 1 lb. whole wheat penne pasta
- 8 ounces cream cheese (if you want to go all out, get mascarpone!)
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, plus 1/4 cup for topping
- 1 cup milk
- 4 chicken breasts
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 cups of broccoli florets
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter
- S & P
Preheat oven to 400°. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta 2 minutes less than indicated on the box. Heat 3 tablespoons EVOO in a pan over medium heat. Season chicken breasts liberally with S & P. Place chicken in the pan and cook for about 6 minutes on each side. Set aside and let it rest. Once chicken has rested, cut into bite-size pieces. Drain the pasta when done cooking.
Add 2 more tablespoons EVOO to the same pan the chicken was cooked in. Add garlic and broccoli. Cook until lightly browned, but still has a bite to it, about 3 minutes.
Stir together cream cheese and parmesan cheese in a saucepan over medium heat. Add nutmeg, S & P, and milk. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer.
Mix the pasta, chicken, broccoli, and cheese sauce in a large baking dish. Top with bread crumbs and extra parmesan cheese. Dot with butter. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown on top.