Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spinach, Bacon, and Chicken Macaroni

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite dishes.  I like to use white Irish cheddar cheese but I didn't have any available while making this.  Sharp cheeses are perfect for this dish.

Spinach, Bacon, and Chicken Macaroni
Spinach, Bacon, and Chicken Macaroni

1 lb rotini noodles
6 oz baby spinach

2 chicken breasts, cooked, chopped

6 slices bacon - chopped into bits
2 tbls flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp salt
12 oz sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2 tbls butter - melted
1 1/2 cup Colby jack
panko breadcrumbs to cover top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked.  I boiled my chicken.  To the water I added a chopped onion, about 4 cloves of garlic, and several spices including, salt, garlic powder, cayenne, thyme.  It's up to you how to do it, just make sure it is completely cooked.  Chop it into bite sized pieces.

Cook rotini noodles as directed on package.  Add baby spinach to boiling water for the last minute of cooking.  Drain. 

Cut bacon into little bits and cook in a large sauce pan until crispy.  Remove the bacon and drain well on paper towels.  Leave the bacon drippings in the pan.
Add the flour to the drippings and stir with a whisk until bubbly.  Slowly add in the milk while whisking and cook for a few minutes until it starts to thicken up. 
Remove from heat and stir in the nutmeg, white pepper, black pepper, red pepper, and salt.  After the spices are incorporated add the cheddar and Parmesan cheese.  Stir until melted.

Add half of the bacon, all of the chicken, and all of the noodles/spinach to the cheese sauce and fold together until well blended.

Add the mixture to a greased two quart baking dish.  It won't all fit so don't be worried.  You can either put the rest in a small baking dish, or just simply have something to snack on as the rest cooks.

Add the Colby jack cheese to the top of the dish.  Cover the top with the panko breadcrumbs.  Drizzle the melted butter over the panko.  Add remaining bacon bits to the top.

Cook in oven for about 30 minutes until the top is nice and browned.

Dig in and enjoy!

You can use different cheeses and different spices.  Once you get the basics of making the cheese sauce, the possibilities are pretty much endless. 

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