All the mac ‘n cheese indulgence with a healthy, hearty twist.
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:
- It’s incredibly easy but doesn’t taste simple
- It has TONS of flavor: pesto, sweet, earthy, & peppery
- You get the richness of mac ‘n cheese without the guilt
- Fewer calories, more protein and nutrients
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.
Substitutions for the Chicken, Pesto, or Veggies
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:
- Spinach & artichoke: swap the sweet potatoes, kale, and half the cheese for spinach, artichoke hearts, and white cheddar cheese
- Southwest: swap the pesto and half the cheese for 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and cheddar cheese
- Springtime: swap the veggies for asparagus, peas, and arugula
- Vegetarian: exchange the chicken for 2 cups shiitake mushrooms
Chicken Pesto Mac ‘n Cheese with Sweet Potato and Kale
A warm, hearty pasta dinner hidden with vegetables, vitamins, and minerals.
- Prep Time40 min
- Cook Time10 min
- Total Time50 min
- Serving Size1 cup
- Energy312 cal
- Main Course
- Cooking Method
- 1 T. garlic powder
- 1 T. paprika
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 cups (1 box) macaroni of choice
- 1.5 cups (2 medium) chicken breasts
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1.5 cups (1 large) sweet potato
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cups almond milk, unsweetened
- 1.5 cups mozzarella, shredded
- 2 cups parmesan, shredded
- 3 T. pesto
- 1.5 cups kale, shredded
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.
This is an extra note from author. This can be any tip, suggestion or fact related to the recipe.
- 8 servings per container
- Serving Size1 cup
- Amount per serving
- % Daily Value*
- Total Fat13.2 g16.92%
- Saturated Fat5.4 g27%
- Trans Fat0 g
- Cholesterol43 mg14.33%
- Sodium772 mg33.57%
- Total Carbohydrate26 g9.45%
- Dietary Fiber2.7 g9.64%
- Total Sugars6.4 g
- Protein22.8 g45.6%
- Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol)25 IU3.13%
- Calcium382 mg29.38%
- Iron3 mg16.67%
- Potassium486 mg10.34%
- * The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.