Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese ~ easy ONE POT recipe. Elbow macaroni and bites of chicken in a creamy, cheesy sauce flavored with fresh garden pesto.If mac and cheese is on the menu, chances are good I’ll order it, especially if it’s creamy like this Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese or the one shown here.
I get though – there are people who don’t want the fuss of making it at home. That’s why I simplified this recipe. Everything – including the pasta – cooks in one pot. No boiling the pasta so no extra pots. Just cheesy adult mac and cheese flavored with basil pesto. Who’s in?
On a trip to the west side of Michigan I stumbled on a really unique, over-the-top good restaurant appropriately called Taste and pretty much made camp there.
My favorite dish from there was the inspiration for this recipe. Tender bites of seasoned chicken and macaroni blended in a creamy, silky cheese sauce infused with the bright, garden flavors of pesto.
You can make your own Pesto or sub in your favorite brand from the grocery store. Either way it gives this dish tons of bold, fresh flavor and turns ordinary into extraordinary.
I not only wanted to match the creaminess of the restaurant version but I also wanted mine to be a one-pot recipe. We all want to eat a really good meal but this time of year we’re basically juggling blindfolded.
Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese Ingredients:
- olive oil
- chicken breast
- milk (full fat)
- chicken stock
- uncooked elbow macaroni
- mozzarella cheese
- sharp cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- dry mustard
- pesto (homemade or store-bought)
How to make this recipe:
Cut the raw chicken into bite size pieces then add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a deep skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper searing on both sides, cook completely through then remove the chicken from the skillet.
In the same skillet or pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat then whisk in the flour and cook for 3 minutes. Don’t short-change the cooking time. You want to get rid of the floury taste which is just there to thicken the sauce.
Next slowly add the milk, stirring over medium heat and scraping up any brown bits remaining from the chicken.
When it’s completely combined and bubbly add the water, chicken stock, dry mustard and salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper).
Add the uncooked macaroni to the sauce, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Continue cooking for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the pasta is al dente.
Remove the skillet from the heat and slowly add the cheeses a little at a time stirring gently then fold in the pesto and chicken. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary then serve right away.
If you tried this Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese recipe or any other on the blog, I’d love to hear from you with a comment or star rating.
Chicken Pesto Mac and Cheese
- 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
- 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.
- In the same skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat then whisk in the flour and cook for 3 minutes.
- Slowly add the milk, whisking over medium heat and scraping up any brown bits remaining from the chicken.
- When it’s completely combined and bubbly, add the water, stock, dry mustard and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.
- 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.
- 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.