Growing up, my family ate pasta a lot: at least once a week, and sometimes twice. In our defense, we swam year-round and played soccer in between, so we were a hungry group. Kraft mac ‘n cheese was a favorite growing up, but now that we’re older, it’s time for our mac’ to grow up, too.
Why this recipe works:
When I made this recipe, I used my homemade kale pesto, which gave it a nuttier and earthy flavor. You can, of course, use a store-bought pesto for this. However, it’s incredibly simple to make your own pesto from fresh or frozen greens you have leftover.
Chicken pesto mac ‘n cheese by itself would be a wonderful dinner, but the veggies do round out the dish with accent flavors and necessary nutrients. If sweet potatoes and kale aren’t you favorite, here are some other variations you can try:
A warm, hearty pasta dinner hidden with vegetables, vitamins, and minerals.
Preparing the ingredients
Combine the spices together in a bowl and set aside. You’ll use this for the potatoes and the chicken.
Chop the potatoes into 1/2 in slices or cubes. If the kale isn’t already shredded, do that now. Combine the cheese in a separate bowl and set aside.
Start the Cooking
Preheat the over to 350 F. Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Sprinkle half the spice mixture on the chicken, then bake in the oven for 14-16 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked through. After cooking, let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into bite-sized pieces.
Prepare a medium pot for boiling water for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the box directions, then set aside for later.
Meanwhile, add the olive oil, sweet potatoes and remaining spice mix to a large, rimmed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high. After a few minutes, add the water and cover the saucepan with a lid. Let the potatoes cook through, approximately 8-10 minutes. The water should evaporate by then; if the potatoes stick, add a touch more water. Remove the potatoes and set aside.
Turn the heat off, and add the milk, 3/4 of the cheese, and pesto. Stir gently, and turn the heat back to on to low when the cheese begins to melt. Add the macaroni first, and stir until the noodles are coated. Next, add the chicken, potatoes, and kale, and combine well. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the pasta, and place in the oven. Cook for 10 minutes, then let cool before serving.