Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese

Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese ~ macaroni and tender bites of chicken in a creamy, silky cheese sauce with the garden-fresh flavors of pesto.

Dinner | September 7, 2017 | By

If mac and cheese is on the menu, changes are good I’ll order it, especially if it’s a specialty type, like Truffle, Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese or  Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese. In fact, I still eat mac and cheese from the blue box like a 5-year-old because anyway you serve it, it combines two all-time favorites, cheese and pasta.

Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese ~ macaroni and tender bites of chicken in a creamy, silky cheese sauce with the garden-fresh flavors of pesto.

Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese ~ macaroni and tender bites of chicken in a creamy, silky cheese sauce with the garden-fresh flavors of pesto.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have certain standards when it comes to mac and cheese ~ I do ~ and creaminess and taste run a close 1 and 2. I don’t even care if the creaminess comes from faux cheese.

If you caught my Baked Mostaccioli post recently you know I took a couple of weekend getaways this summer, one with my husband and the other a mom-daughter weekend that included lots of really great food, wine and company.

We were just three hours away on the west side of Michigan in Saugatuck, a beautiful beach town and while walking through nearby South Haven, we stumbled on a really unique, over-the-top delicious restaurant, Taste that specializes in small plates, meaning eating the same amount, but you’re able to sample all sorts of different foods which the way I love to eat. It’s like a whole meal of appetizers. 

http://www.agoudalife.com/baked-mostaccioli/

Two dishes we samples stand out, a super simple appetizer that involved locally sources honey, blue cheese and a warm baguette that I’ll be sharing soon and the other is this Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese that I couldn’t wait to make at home.

Their Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese contained tender bites of seasoned chicken and macaroni blended in a creamy, silky cheese sauce infused with the bright, garden flavors of pesto. 

Pesto is nothing more than fresh basil with usually pine nuts (though I use walnuts and sometimes add spinach), garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil. Pesto takes just a few minutes to make, is also available in grocery stores and gives any dish (or even fresh bread) bold, fresh flavor. 

Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese ~ macaroni and tender bites of chicken in a creamy, silky cheese sauce with the garden-fresh flavors of pesto.

I knew I not only wanted to match the creaminess and flavor of the dish at Taste but I also wanted it to be a one-pot recipe because whether you have school-age kids or not, from now until the end of December is a busy time of year and we can all use a one-pot, easy cleanup, comforting meal. 

One Pot Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese skimps on time and cleanup, not flavor or creamy, silky texture. 

Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese ~ macaroni and tender bites of chicken in a creamy, silky cheese sauce with the garden-fresh flavors of pesto.

Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 boneless chicken breast cut in bite size pieces
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk (full fat)
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup pesto (homemade or store-bought + OPTIONAL extra pesto for garnish/serving)

Instructions:

Add a drizzle (about a tablespoon) of olive oil to a deep skillet over medium-high heat and once it’s hot, add the bite-size pieces of chicken. Give them a good seasoning with salt and pepper and allow the chicken to sear (brown = color) and cook completely through then remove the chicken from the skillet.

Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese ~ macaroni and tender bites of chicken in a creamy, silky cheese sauce with the garden-fresh flavors of pesto.

In the same skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat then whisk in the flour and cook for three minutes. Don’t short-change the cooking time. You want to get rid of the floury taste. The flour is just there to thick the sauce.

Slowly add the milk, whisking over medium heat and scraping up any brown bits remaining from the chicken.

Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese ~ macaroni and tender bites of chicken in a creamy, silky cheese sauce with the garden-fresh flavors of pesto.

When it’s completely combined and bubbly, add the water, stock, dry mustard and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.

Add the UNCOOKED macaroni to the sauce, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and allow the pasta to gently cook stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.

Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese ~ macaroni and tender bites of chicken in a creamy, silky cheese sauce with the garden-fresh flavors of pesto.

It’s important to remove the skillet from the heat source before adding the cheese or the cheese may get lumpy and not melt properly. 

Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese ~ macaroni and tender bites of chicken in a creamy, silky cheese sauce with the garden-fresh flavors of pesto.

Remove the skillet from the heat and slowly add the cheeses a little at a time, combining thoroughly then fold in the pesto and chicken. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Serve right away. 

Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese ~ macaroni and tender bites of chicken in a creamy, silky cheese sauce with the garden-fresh flavors of pesto.

If you a fan of pesto and macaroni and cheese, this is the dish for you. I hope you’ll try it. It does not disappoint. Enjoy!

Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese ~ macaroni and tender bites of chicken in a creamy, silky cheese sauce with the garden-fresh flavors of pesto.

Print
Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 boneless chicken breast cut in bite size pieces
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk full fat
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 1/2 cups  uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup pesto homemade or store-bought + OPTIONAL extra pesto for garnish/serving
Instructions
  1. Add the olive oil to a deep skillet over medium-high heat and once it’s hot, add the bite-size pieces of chicken. Season with salt and pepper and allow the chicken to sear, cooking completely through then remove from the skillet.

  2. In the same skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat then whisk in the flour and cook for 3 minutes. 

  3. Slowly add the milk, whisking over medium heat and scraping up any brown bits remaining from the chicken.
  4. When it’s completely combined and bubbly, add the water, stock, dry mustard and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.
  5. Pour in the UNCOOKED macaroni to the sauce, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and allow the pasta to gently cook stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.

  6. Remove the skillet from the heat source and slowly add the cheeses a little at a time, combining thoroughly then fold in the pesto and chicken. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

  1. Mary
    September 7, 2017

    There is nothing better than creamy mac and cheese, unless you add pesto! This absolutely a winner! I love that you brought home delicious recipes from your trip. Can’t wait for the appetizer! Pinned. Chat soon.

    • Bernie
      September 12, 2017

      Thanks Mary – I so agree about creamy mac and cheese! I had a hard time putting my work down – ugh!! The 3 ingredient appetizer and a new salmon recipe will be coming up soon. Enjoy the day, friend 🙂