Dress up classic macaroni and cheese with applewood-smoked bacon, chicken, and Ranch dressing-inspired seasonings for a delicious twist on this classic dish.
8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
1 slice applewood-smoked bacon
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1/3 cup condensed 45% reduced-sodium 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded six-cheese Italian blend (such as Sargento)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded colby-Jack cheese
How to Make It
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings in pan. Finely chop bacon; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add chicken to drippings in pan; sauté 6 minutes or until done.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; sprinkle flour evenly into pan. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Combine milk and soup, stirring with a whisk; gradually add milk mixture to saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat; let stand 4 minutes or until sauce cools to 155°. Add Italian cheese blend, onion powder, garlic powder, dill, and salt, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in pasta and chicken.
Spoon mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with reserved bacon and colby-Jack cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts.
Our family loves this recipe! My kids (4 and 6) devour it, which doesnt happen often when meat is involved. If following the recipe exactly, it can turn out a bit bland in flavor, but is still good. I do adjust the recipe in a few ways. First I double the recipe for our family of four, this leaves enough leftovers for the next day. By doubling the recipe, I use a full can of cream of mushroom so none goes to waste. I also saute freshly chopped onions and garlic in place of the powders. For the cheese, I use a blend of sharp cheddar along with the 6 cheese Italian blend. This adds a bit more flavor, and adds that needed "cheese" flavor that can sometimes be missing with only the Italian blend. I do still top with the Colby-jack blend because that also adds more flavor as well. If I am short on cheese, I have also used just the Colby-jack and it has come out just as good. But I prefer a mixture of cheeses for texture and flavor.
I had no issues with the preparation of the recipe. It came together smoothly and easily.
I used three pieces of bacon, and one medium sized chicken breast (which I seasoned with a modest amount of salt and pepper). I also cut the bacon prior to cooking it to save time. While the chicken wasn't bad, it didn't seem to contribute much to the recipe. Everyone cherry-picked the bacon out and wanted more. Next time, I believe I'll just use bacon - and probably moreso. I know this takes away from the "light" factor.
It was a good creamy, mildly cheesy dish. I thought it had great flavor. The leftovers re-heated well.
We love this! The first time I made it I did not have dill, so I added extra onion and garlic powder (still don't have dill so never add it). The second time I made it, at the request of my husband, I made the following changes, used 3 pieces of bacon (this is how we have ours packaged) and added chopped mushrooms. I sauteed the mushrooms with the chicken. I also mixed the mushroom soup, milk, and seasonings together so the flavor has more time to develop as it cooks. These changes were such a big hit, it is how I make it every time. I have also been playing with the idea of adding fresh thyme from my garden.
Pretty good with a few modifications. I used cream of onion instead of mushroom. This gave it a little more flavor. I actually used 10oz of can chicken, but I did saute it with a little bit of bacon drippings. I also seasoned it with garlic powder, pepper, and onion powder. Here's the twist: I added about 1/4 cup ranch dressing to the chicken after it sauted. (Now it is truly Bacon, RANCH and Chicken Mac n' cheese!) I also used a triple blend cheddar cheese instead of the Italian and coby-jack blends. I probably used a total of 1 and 1/2 cups cheese and 2 slices of hickory bacon. I'm sure this doesn't classify as "light" now, but it sure tasted yummy!
Like many of the other reviews, I was surprised that it seemed a bit bland but the blandness seems to be more related to the chicken and not the sauce. Next time, I will season the chicken before cooking. To lighten the recipe up a little more we omitted the bacon and used liquid smoke to capture the bacon flavor.
I found this really dry and not very flavorful. It sounded much better than it tasted. It seems as if the others that liked it made many changes. If I were to try it again, I would follow one of their recipes instead.
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