Pesto Mac & Cheese
I love macaroni and cheese. Growing up, we had Kraft brand and it was constantly a side dish with steak or broiled chicken. On the very rare occasion, my dad would splurge and buy Velveeta brand. 9 1/2 times out of 10, though, it was Kraft. When I got a little older, but still not yet out of my picky eating shell, I got adventurous and tried one of Annie’s organic mac & cheese. I know, I know. What a rebel, right?
Well, fast forward a bit further. No, further than that. A liiiitle bit further. Right about the time The Fellow™ and I moved in together in our Bremerton apartment. We started buying Kirkland brand macaroni and cheese. I still wasn’t working at that point, and still found excuses to not make anything more than a box of it mixed with shredded boiled chicken. Again, simmer down at the very thought of just how fearless a person can be. The more I got thinking about it, the more I realized how simply simple macaroni and cheese was and that it wouldn’t take a whole lot longer than making a box version to whip up something on my own. It required ingredients we always had on hand. It just required patience.
Since trying my own version for the first time, I have not bought a box of cheese powder and noodles. Recently, however, I sorta stopped making mac and cheese at all. I wasn’t patient enough anymore. You mean I have to wait for the noodles to boil? I have to whisk feverishly to make sure nothing burns to the bottom? I need to use three pots for boiling chicken, boiling noodles, and cheese sauce? Four, if I’m throwing it in a casserole dish to bake with a crispity cheesy breadcrumb top? What the eff, man! That’s just too much work! So I used that as my reason to not make mac and cheese. Which is highly stupid considering when I make any other pasta dish, I still have to boil noodles and I still need to use some sort of pot or pan to saute veggies and cook the meat and… yeah. I think you can see how silly I was being.
I tried something new tonight. I actually bought myself a fancy ravioli maker over the weekend, whilst perusing Sur la Table in Seattle with a gift card I had leftover from Christmas, and was planning on making something scrumptious with that, but by the time I got done with my errands and got home, I didn’t have enough time. I needed to do something relatively quick. I had then settled on a healthy taco pie casserole type thing, but required the use of many vegetables that managed to spoil without my knowing. Mainly because we’ve been HORRIBLE about eating in this past week and a lot of stuff was wasted. I am ashamed of us. So that left me with broccoli, an onion, and canned this and that. Hmpf. Plan three said I was making mac and cheese, since I already had chicken boiling on the stovetop, and I was gonna have fun with it.
Instead of doing everything separately (except the chicken), I boiled my milk and noodles together, added atypical mac and cheese cheeses, and off I went. What we ended up with was almost gourmet feeling. No crappy Walmart brand cheddar cheese tonight! Which was a relief since I had a disgusting lunch at Panera Bread today that included gross cheddar cheese… if you could call it that.
The end result of this dish was a sauce-drenched pasta that picked up notes of the slightly sweet balsamic cheese and the mild pecorino (some may argue why bother using pecorino when the flavor is so mild; I say “plllbbbt – it’s about texture and complimentary flavors”) with a dash of basil and pepper.
Macaroni Rotini and Cheese
2 cups Dreamfields rotini
2 cups 2% milk
1/4 cup Satori balsamic cheese
1/2 cup pecorino romano
6 ounces chicken, shredded
3 Tablespoons pesto
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1. Cook the chicken and shred or cube.
2. In a medium pot over medium heat, combine the milk and pasta. Stir occasionally. You want the pasta to cook slowly and don’t want the milk to boil. Once the pasta has reached desired tenderness, remove from heat.
3. Stir in pesto, salt, pepper, chicken, and shredded/shaved cheeses.