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During our first weeks home with baby, making dinner was the last thing on our minds. Family and friends played a huge role by bringing over food that we could either eat that night or toss in the freezer for a later date. Pasta dishes were key because they were so easy to just pop in the oven and reheat.
One of my favourite pasta dishes is mac & cheese. Anyone with me on that? However, it's also not exactly the best option when it comes to eating healthy. So, why not kick it up a notch by adding some veggies and protein?
That's right, a healthier mac & cheese - the sneaky way to incorporate some fibre, protein and essential vitamins into your diet. Same old comfort food we all love, with a little side of nutrition.
- 1 box Barilla Gluten Free Pasta, such as rotini or penne
- 1 bunch broccoli, rinsed and cut into bite-sized florets
- 2 cups skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
- 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup skim or 1% milk
- 2 1/2 cups reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground back pepper
- additional 1/2 cup reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated (optional)
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta al dente, according to package instructions. Remember not to overcook, as the pasta will soften slightly while baking.
- Approximately 2-3 minutes before pasta is al dente, add in the broccoli florets and allow to cook slightly. Drain pasta and broccoli and set aside.
- While pasta water is coming to a boil, melt better in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
- Whisk flour into butter and garlic mixture until combined. Cook for an additional 1 minute, whisking occasionally.
- Slowly add stock and whisk until mixture is smooth.
- Slowly add milk and whisk until mixture is smooth.
- Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes or until mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in cheeses, salt and pepper.
- Pour the cheese sauce over top of the drained pasta and broccoli. Add chicken and toss until everything is evenly combined.
- Once combined, pour pasta mixture into a greased 9x13 inch baking dish and sprinkle with extra sharp cheddar cheese and breadcrumbs (optional).
- Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until the top becomes slightly crispy and the breadcrumbs are slightly golden.
- Remove from oven and serve immediately.