I’ve been on a Buffalo kick lately. That happens for me sometimes, and I wonder if it happens for you. You get a hankering for something – chili, beef, seafood, noodles, your favorite cereal and you eat the whole box in a day or two. It could be anything. The point is, you want it even after you’ve had it, so you have it again. And again. And… you get the point.
It’s been that way for me with Buffalo wing sauce the past few days. That’s why I’ve posted a couple of Buffalo recipes over the past few days. I’ve got one more I’ll share this week, and today we’re going to combine the spiciness of Buffalo chicken with the creaminess of macaroni and cheese.
This is a favorite of mine for colder months. I love the heartiness of it, and because it’s mac and cheese, albeit a fancy version, it qualifies as Comfort Food. I like making it on the weekend, then having leftovers for lunch during the week. Sometimes, when I put it in the oven to bake, I’ll bundle up and take a walk. It’s very relaxing, especially right after a good snow, or during a light snow that just makes everything sparkle. At the same time, there’s the building sense of anticipation, and the welcome knowledge that, when I get home, I’ve got something warm and wonderful waiting for me. For lunches during the week, a small bowl this mac and cheese, plus some grape tomatoes or other veggies, is very filling and satisfying. For a few minutes, it can take me back to the weekend and that walk, giving me a nice mental break to go with a good meal.
OK. Time for some fun. Let’s make some Comfort Food!
1 box of pasta (approx. 13 oz.)
1 lb. cooked chicken
Up to 1 cup crumbled cooked bacon (optional)
2 small red or yellow bell peppers
1 bunch green onions
3 garlic cloves
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup Blue Cheese Aioli or good Blue cheese dressing (thick)
3/4 to 1 cup Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce or Red Hot Wing Sauce
3 to 4 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs (Progresso or other)
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Prepare pasta according to package instructions. When done to just al dente and no more, drain and transfer to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
While the pasta is boiling, cut or shred chicken into bite-size pieces. In a medium bowl drizzle 1/4 cup (or more wing sauce over the chicken. Toss to coat well.
Chop bell peppers into a fair-size dice. Cut green onions into pieces 1/4 long.
Once the pasta is in the baking dish, sprinkle some salt over it. Then, use a slotted spoon to remove chicken from bowl (leaving any leftover sauce) and add it to the pasta. Then add the crumbled bacon (if using), bell peppers, three quarters of the green onions (reserving mostly green parts for later), and about 2-1/2 cups of shredded cheese. Stir it all up good so it’s thoroughly mixed up. Not confused… just all mixed up and hanging out together and happy.
Pour 1/2 cup of wing sauce into a blender or food processor. Roughly chop the garlic cloves and add them, along with the softened cream cheese and Blue Cheese Aioli. Puree until smooth, adding more hot sauce if needed.
Mix another cup of shredded cheese with the bread crumbs. Sprinkle this over the top of the pasta.
Bake at 350° for about 30-40 minutes. It’s done when the top is nice and golden brown. Remove to counter (on top of a trivet or two to protect the counter) and sprinkle with a little more shredded cheese. Let sit for five to ten minutes to set and cool enough that it doesn’t glue itself to the top of your mouth and burn you so bad it causes blisters. I mean, I like hot and all but, really, let it set for a few minutes.
Serve to large plates, putting each slice right smack in the middle. Dust the entire plate with more shredded cheese, then top each slice with reserved green onions, letting a few fall on the plate. For one last bit of cool, dust the plate lightly with grated Parmesan cheese and/or bread crumbs, and drizzle a little wing sauce over everything.
To save yourself time, you can use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. If you do, get the one with the least spices; Lemon Herb and Garlic Herb are two good choices. Get the bird out of the container (and juice) as soon as possible. Also, peel the skin off and get rid of it right away. I find the breast meat to be the best meat for this recipe. But you can use all of it if making a larger batch, or you just want more chicken in your macaroni and cheese.
Another quick alternative is to use precooked chicken breasts you’ve done at home. I know I’ve mentioned before that I often do extra breasts to keep for future meals. It’s pretty fast to pull two out of the fridge and shred them up.
The pasta shape you use is up to you. I like it with shells, bow ties, and penne. But feel free to try others.
You can heat this up in a number of ways. Either trade up to Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce, add some sliced jalapenos, cayenne pepper, or your favorite hot sauce. I suggest you be careful the first time out, though. You can always drop some jalapenos on top, or add cayenne or hot sauce to your own serving.
Shredded Mozzarella is the usual choice for cheese, but you could certainly do an Italian blend if you prefer, or create your own combination. I’ll usually go for Mozzarella unless they have shredded Provolone, in which case I’ll do a combination of the two. I also like to add some grated (not shredded) Parmesan to the mix, but just a little. Call it a quarter cup.
If you don’t want to make Blue Cheese Aioli, you can get by with a good, thick salad dressing. I prefer the aioli because it’ makes the whole thing creamier.
Serve with a nice fresh salad and/or green veggie for a complete meal. You could add bread, but that would only fill you up when you could have seconds instead. Just a thought. Have fun; don’t forget to leave me a comment. And, as always,
Play with your food!
Did you like this recipe? What recipes would you like to learn? Leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts! (And don’t forget to LIKE this post!) Share it using the tiles below.