If I could have mac and cheese every day without it adversely affecting my health, I would definitely go for it. I love it that much. I could sit down to a basic, standard homemade macaroni and cheese every single day without ever tiring of it, but luckily that would never be necessary. There are about a million and one ways to switch up your mac and cheese game, like this One Pot Tuscan Chicken Mac and Cheese. It’s as cheesy, creamy, and comforting as any good mac and cheese should be, but it’s dressed up with tangy sun-dried tomatoes and earthy spinach. Oh, and it won’t even take you a half hour to make.
I’m all about the one-pot pastas lately, because they make for great quick and satisfying weeknight meals, but this one has definitely taken the lead. The combination of the seared, seasoned chicken breast with the chew of the noodles in that creamy, cheesy sauce is just about perfect, and the Tuscan flavor combo of spinach and sun-dried tomato has this slight sharpness that cuts through the richness in a way that only lifts it up.
Speaking of cheesiness, did I mention there are three kinds of cheese going on here? There’s fontina and mozzarella for their supreme melting ability – which means the texture of this dish is totally divine – and then plenty of Parmesan for flavor.
Not that the flavor here is in any way dependent on the Parmesan alone… The sauce contains a whole five cloves of garlic as well as some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and plenty of Italian herbs, so every bite has a sort of team effort of taste.
When a meal comes together in one pot or pan like this one does, it’s a serious selling point. (I mean, you don’t even have to pre-cook your noodles. They just simmer right there in the sauce until they’re nice and al dente.) But the main selling point on this quick pasta is definitely the amazing combination of flavors. You just might not ever go back to basic mac and cheese again.
Tuscan Chicken Mac and Cheese
25 minutes to prepare serves 4
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1-inch thickness
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jar (9 oz) sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 3 cups half and half, divided
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 10 oz elbow macaroni, uncooked
- 3 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Season chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika, and heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add chicken and cook until golden brown on the outside and cooked through, 4-5 minutes per side. Remove to a plate, cover with foil, and set aside.
- Drain sun dried tomatoes, reserving 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add reserved oil and tomatoes to the pan, along with the garlic, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Stir in flour and cook briefly, about 1 minute. Stir in broth and half and half and bring to a low simmer.
- Stir in the Italian seasoning and the dry macaroni and return to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, stirring frequently, and cook until macaroni is al dente and sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in spinach, remove from heat and stir in the cheese until melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Slice chicken into strips and serve atop or stirred into pasta. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Cafe Delites.