If you are a homemaker whose family has roots in the south, you better know how to make some darn good baked macaroni and cheese! Well I have tried and tried and I have yet to make a macaroni and cheese that would make my grandma proud. I have made some good ones, but certainly nothing to write home about it.
Well ya’ll I finally did it. I found a recipe that I was able to master and even personalize it some too! The winning recipe was actually singer John Legend’s recipe! Now I have to admit that some of the problem with my previous attempts with mac and cheese stemmed from the fact that I tried to make a “healthier” version. Part of my goal when cooking is to make the things that we enjoy a little less naughty. So I would use whole wheat pasta, low fat cheeses, low fat milk, and no eggs or butter. I read recipes that said you need to use the full fat stuff to make it good. But I didn’t believe them. Well…I think they may have been right my friends.
I still used whole wheat pasta. I actually found some whole wheat pasta that is shaped like Cavatappi which is my favorite pasta shape at Sprouts. But I personally don’t feel like this was a big “sacrifice” taste wise, to me whole wheat pasta doesn’t taste worse than white. I also usually prefer low fat cheese (I try to stay away from full fat dairy products). It tastes just as good to me as the full fat versions. However at Trader Joe’s they have very few low fat block cheeses. I’ve been trying to use whole blocks of cheese lately. Even though it is more work, it has less added ingredients added to it to keep it fresh. However I still used low fat half and half for the recipe.
Anyway let’s get to to recipe shall we? Keep in mind, I definitely strayed away from the original recipe in more ways than one. This was a last minute decision to make this macaroni and cheese. So I had to make whatever we had in the house work. So here it goes.
Macaroni and Cheese
3 cups of cooked pasta (cook it a little under al dente so it doesn’t over cook while being baked)
2 cups of grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup of a parmesan/mozarella cheese mix
1 pint of low fat half and half
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 teaspoon each of seasoning salt, garlic powder, and pepper
2 large chicken breasts
1 cup of barbecue sauce
Seasonings to taste
4 cooked strips of bacon (I used Turkey bacon)
Cook your pasta then melt half a stick of butter in the hot pasta. Make sure that all the pasta is covered with butter.
In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and half and half. Mix in seasonings after.
Mix your grated cheese in another bowl.
Layer your pasta and cheese in a greased baking pan. Start with the pasta, then cheese repeat for 3 layers. The top layer should be cheese. Then you can pour your half and half mixture over the layered pasta. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
You can cook your bacon in the oven while all of this is happening. Crumble your bacon or (cut it up if you use turkey bacon like me).
While you are cooking your pasta, bake your seasoned chicken for 20 min at 350 covered. When the chicken is cooked through, uncover the chicken and brush some barbecue sauce on both sides then cook for an additional 5-10 minutes uncovered. Make sure it doesn’t dry out. When the bbq sauce has been baked into the chicken take it out of the oven. Then cut it up in to smaller pieces and toss it with the rest of the bbq sauce.
Once everything is done it is time to put it all together! You can put your crumbled bacon on top of the cooked macaroni and cheese like so.
Then you will add the bbq chicken to the top of that.
Can I just tell you that me and the hubbs were loving this stuff! The bacon flavor wasn’t very strong. So if you chose to omit that I don’t think you would miss anything. Also it might be more flavorful with pork bacon. I’m not sure. I used a bbq sauce that was kind of sweet. Next time I would either use less or find one that isn’t as sweet. Other than that, it was perfect. Oh and to give it a little kick you can squirt some siracha on the top, I did that and it was even better!
Try it out and let me know what you think. Also please let me know of some fun variations that you may have for Macaroni and cheese!