It's a Keeper: Mac and Cheddar Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli

I am on a serious comfort food kick lately. I am trying to avoid comfort food that is really really bad for me and pick a recipe with at least a couple veggies in it. This time it was Mac and Cheddar Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli, which can be found in Cooking 'Round the Clock.

I tried to make it a little healthier by using organic whole wheat pasta and 2 percent milk. I am sure the milk made a difference, but I really like whole wheat pasta. Despite how that picture looks (it was taken with my old camera), it really looked nice, too! You get your protein, your starch, your veggie and your dairy all in one meal.

Here's my question for those of you who know how to cook: do most mac and cheese recipes include an onion? I would have never guessed that, but most of Rachael Ray's mac and cheese recipes include at least one. Clue me in here, people.

This one is do-able in 30 minutes, especially if you can get your milk to boil faster than I can (although, see the tip below). Here's the recipe with my comment in brackets:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound chicken breast tenders, chopped [Really, get the chicken tenders. Less chopping is always good.]
Salt and pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound macaroni elbows or cavatappi corkscrew shaped pasta twists [No whole wheat elbows and no cavatappi at all, so I went with the whole wheat penne.]
2 1/2 cups raw broccoli florets, available packaged in produce department
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cups whole milk [As I said above, I used 2 percent to make it a little healthier.]
1 cup chicken stock [Make sure you use chicken stock, not chicken broth. Here's the brand I use. The extra flavor really makes a difference.]
3 cups yellow sharp Cheddar
1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

Place a pot of water on to boil for macaroni. [Seriously, this is the level of detail I require in a recipe. Sigh.]

Heat a medium pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and chicken and season with salt and pepper. Saute a couple of minutes then add onion and cook another 5 to 7 minutes until onions are tender and chicken is cooked through. Turn off heat and reserve.

To boiling pasta water, add pasta and salt to season the cooking water. Cook 5 minutes, then add broccoli and cook 3 minutes more or until pasta is cooked to al dente and florets are just tender. [This is hard to judge for me. I look for the bright green color, then start babysitting them.]

While pasta cooks, heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. [This part always takes me forever. On her talk show, Rachael did this part of a mac and cheese recipe in a wide, shallow oval pan. That way the milk heated up faster.] Add butter and melt, then add flour, cayenne and paprika and whisk together over heat until roux bubbles then cook a minute more. Whisk in milk and stock and raise heat to bring the sauce to a quick boil. Simmer until the sauce thickens about 5 minutes.

Drain macaroni or pasta and broccoli florets. Add back to the pot and add chicken to the pasta and broccoli.

Add cheese to milk sauce and stir to melt it in, a minute or so. Stir in mustard and season sauce with salt and pepper. [Don't forget the mustard like I always do!] Pour sauce over chicken and broccoli and cooked pasta and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings and transfer to a large serving platter and serve.


  1. Hello, I absolutyely LOVE your blog (and RR for that matter!) This pasta looks really good, I think I'll have to make it tomorrow night. I really like her because she to me is a "real" person, not fake - she reminds me of someone I went to high school with - not a celebrity.

  2. I rarely see mac & cheese recipes that call for onion, but the one I always use (from Joy of Cooking) includes onion. I like the flavor and the crunch it provides, especially with this recipe since you have the chicken and the broccoli - for me, onion just goes with those things.

  3. Kristy - thank you! I agree - Rachael is not snobby at all. That's definitely part of her appeal.

    Home Cook - okay, glad it's not just me. I love them in there, but it just never occurred to me that it would be common mac and cheese ingredient.

  4. Hello!!! ♥

    it looks really good!!
    my mom ''n'' dad are buying the ingredients. i can't wait to taste it!



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