Monday, September 8, 2014

Fancy Mac 'n Cheese with Roasted & Sundried Tomatoes, Spinach and Chicken

This meal was super easy to whip up and quite yummy.  I didn't originally plan on adding sun-dried tomatoes, but, when I opened my fridge door they were just there staring at me, so I threw some in.....I'm glad I did because they added a lot of flavor to the dish.  And I am always a huge fan of putting roasted cherry tomatoes in just about anything.  Since I don't eat meat, I only put chicken on one side of the dish (instead of stirring it into the whole thing) vegetarian portion turned out delish, so, just know this meal is great with or without the chicken. Two out of three kids loved this. I hope your family does, too! Enjoy!

1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb ziti or penne pasta
2 teaspoons minced garlic
5 tsp all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt & pepper, each
1/2 tsp dried basil
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 large handfuls of spinach leaves, chopped
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup cooked chicken, chopped (optional)
3 tablespoons of bread crumbs or panko

Preheat the oven to 400F

While the oven is preheating, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta noodles according to the lowest suggested time on the box (ie. if the box says to cook for 9-11 minutes, cook for only 9 minutes).  Drain the al dente pasta and set aside.

Toss the halved cherry tomatoes with 2 tsp olive oil and spread on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast for 15 minutes on 400F.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Add ­remaining 2 teaspoons oil to a large oven-proof skillet (if your skillet isn't oven proof, it's okay, you can transfer to a cooking dish later). Add garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in flour, milk, salt, pepper and dried basil. Use a whisk to blend all ingredients completely; whisk until smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook for one minute or until thickened; stir frequently.  Remove the pan from heat; stir in Parmesan and mozzarella and blend until smooth. Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce; stir well.  Stir in chopped spinach, sun dried tomatoes and chicken, if using.  Gently fold in roasted tomatoes.  If you are not using an oven-proof skillet, then you should transfer your pasta to a cooking dish now. Sprinkle the top of the pasta evenly with bread crumbs.

Change oven temp to broil.

Broil the pasta dish for about three minutes. Stand close by and turn on the oven light to make sure the bread crumbs do not burn. Remove from oven once breadcrumbs look golden and are slightly crispy. Enjoy!

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