Ok, Ok, so I said this one was actually pretty healthy…maybe I should have said ‘not that bad for you’. There are a lot of redeeming qualities about this recipe that make it better for you than the fat laden mac and cheese we are all use to. For one, there is less cheese. Also, I swapped out the milk/cream for unsweetened almond milk – high in protein, calcium and even fewer calories! I also opted for all white meat ground chicken which cuts down on the fat significantly. Bump all this up with a healthy mixture of vegetables and you’ve got a winner. Oh, I almost forgot, I also switched out traditional wheat pasta for a healthy, cholesterol-free and high protein quinoa pasta…there’s a learning curve when first cooking with a quinoa/corn blend but the flavor and texture is well worth the energy.
Italian Style Chicken Mac & Cheese
Prep time: 20 minutes
1 lb white meat ground chicken
1 8 oz. box Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta
1 diced red pepper
1 pint white button mushrooms, halved
1-2 cups frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 can Hunts Spicy Roast Red Pepper Diced Tomatoes
1/4 tsp crushed fennel seeds
pinch of crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp gluten free all purpose flour
1 cup almond milk
1 cup Italian style cheese blend, shredded (I look for one with provolone, mozzarella and parmesan)
1/4 cup parmesan/asiago blend, shredded for topping
Start by boiling water for pasta, once it comes to a roiling boll, season with salt and then add pasta. The box suggests cooking fro 6-9 minutes but I find that this flour blend does not cook in that short amount of time. I typically boil mine for about 12 minutes, don’t forget that it will also bake off in the oven.
Preheat oven to 350°. In a sauté pan, add a small amount of olive oil and brown the chicken. Add the spices in once the pink is cooked out and mix thoroughly. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a towel lined plate to drain. In the remaining liquid, add the red peppers and the mushrooms to soften. Lightly drain the tomatoes and add to the pan (some liquid will remain which will help to season the vegetables and add to the sauce for the pasta). Mix in the spinach and add the chicken back in.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and set aside. In the pasta pot, add the butter to melt and then whisk in the flour. Once a paste has formed and the flour is completely incorporated, start to add some of the almond milk whisking while it heats through and thickens. Season with salt and pepper. You may find you don’t need all of the milk dependent on how much liquid you have from the vegetable mixture. Add the mixture into the milk sauce and then slowly add the cheese until well blended and the cheese is melted. Add the pasta back in, fully incorporate and then transfer all to a casserole dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.
Sprinkle remaining asiago/parmesan blend over the top and bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly!