Active time: 30 min. Total time: 45 min.
Yield: Serves 8 (serving size: about 2 cups)
If you’re looking for a way to mix your mac and cheese up, your search is over. Our Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese is creamy, spicy, and decadent, with bite-sized pieces of tender chicken breast and a subtle hint of blue cheese. There’s plenty of buffalo chicken flavor, minus the atomic shade of orange you find in other buffalo dishes. The panko topping stays nice and crispy, making for little hits of crunch that perfectly complement the pasta’s toothiness and tender chicken. The sauce coats everything nicely, but not to the point of being overly goopy. The raw green onions on top add some extra crunch and freshness. This dish is super family-friendly, and can even be made in one pot—just skip the baking dish, add the blue cheese and panko, and stick the pot directly in the oven. If you don’t have time to cook chicken, you can use 3 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken of leftover chicken instead. This makes a great party or potluck casserole, but it’s also a winning side at a family dinner. Best of all, it makes great leftovers. Serve with a nice green salad dressed with a slightly sweet vinaigrette and a crisp glass of cold white wine or a cold beer.
- Cooking spray
- 1 pound uncooked mezze penne pasta, elbow macaroni, or cavatappi pasta
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces (about 1/2-inch cubes)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon pepper, divided
- 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (from 1 [9-oz.] onion)
- 1 cup diagonally sliced celery (3 stalks)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped scallions, divided (about 2 bunches), plus more for garnish
- 1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy whippping cream
- 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
- 4 ounces mild Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup hot sauce (such as Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce or Frank’s RedHot Wings Hot Buffalo Hot Sauce)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly spray a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Cook pasta in a large Dutch oven according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta, and set aside. Do not wipe Dutch oven clean.
Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-high, and add chicken, salt, and 1 teaspoon of the lemon pepper. Cook, stirring often, until chicken is beginning to get a little color but is not completely cooked, about 6 minutes. Add onion, celery, and 1 cup of the scallions; cook, stirring often, until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add flour, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute to blend completely. Gradually stir in milk and cream, gently scraping Dutch oven to release any flour mixture from bottom. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high. Boil, stirring often, until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheeses, hot sauce, sour cream, cooked and drained pasta, and remaining 1/2 cup chopped scallions, stirring until well combined.
Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish; sprinkle with blue cheese. Top with panko, and sprinkle remaining 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper over panko. Spray lightly with cooking spray.
Bake in preheated oven until pasta mixture is bubbly and panko topping is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Garnish with additional chopped scallions.
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