Bob and I grew up eating boxed macaroni and cheese. It was a much-loved favorite our working moms relied on to save time and please everyone in the family.
But I never thought about using this store-bought shortcut as a springboard to scrumptious meals until we received Kristen Kuchar's Mac N' Cheese to the Rescue cookbook (Ulysses Press, April 2013, $12.95). She's come up with 101 delectable dishes that start with a box of cheesy goodness, including this yummy Chicken Parm Mac.
This quick-and-easy casserole requires only six, basic ingredients: boxed mac n' cheese (of course), marinara sauce, cooked chicken, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and bread crumbs. If you're anything like us, you already have most of this or something close enough on hand.
I tested the recipe with Archer Farm's Deluxe Italian-Style 4-Cheese Dinner and some of Bob's Great Grilled Chicken. But you can use any leftover chicken or pick up some from the deli. I also used Classico Organic Tomato Herbs and Spices Pasta Sauce for the marinara and sliced mozzarella cheese instead of shredded since it was in my fridge. But grating my own cheese by hand turned out to be the only hard thing about making this recipe so I'll spring for the shredded cheese next time.
After preparing the macaroni and cheese as directed on the box, you warm the marinara and add the chicken, half the cheeses and the cooked mac n' cheese as described below. Then heat this mixture briefly, turn it into a 9 x 13 pan, top with the remaining cheeses and bread crumbs, and bake.
From start to finish, we're talkin' about 45 minutes with minimal clean up (measuring cups and two pots for prep and a baking dish). What a simple way to get top-notch Chicken Parmesan flavor, complete with a crunchy topping!
We adored the flavor and texture of this oh-so-cheesy, comfort-food casserole. Served with crusty bread and green salad, it makes a tasty weeknight treat that kids of all ages will enjoy.
Topping mac n' cheese with a layer of two different cheeses and bread crumbs gives this dish that scrumptious Chicken Parmesan taste without the time it takes to fry the chicken. For an extra crunch, use seasoned panko bread crumbs instead of the classic Italian-style.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cook the mac n' cheese as directed, and set aside.
Heat the marinara sauce in a large pot over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and the cooked mac n' cheese. Stir to combine, and cook for another 5 minutes, until heated through. Transfer to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Mix the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese with the bread crumbs. Evenly distribute over the mac n' cheese mixture in the baking dish. Bake uncovered until the top starts to brown, 5 to 10 minutes.
Author: Kristen Kuchar
Other Works: Articles in Forbes Travel Guide, Expedia, Cheese Connoisseur magazine, Chicago Parent and more.
Publisher: Ulysses Press
Penned: April 2013
What's Inside: 101 recipes for dressing up boxed macaroni n' cheese. You'll find ideas for turning your comfort food favorite into Tuna Casserole, Chicken Piccata, Meatless South-of-the-Border Tacos and more.
Bake a box with scrambled eggs and bacon for a cheesy omelet; make a Thai noodle bowl by adding peppers, peanuts and sweet chili sauce; or melt ricotta and Parmesan into hot shells n' cheese for an Italian-inspired delight. Whatever your choice, these quick-and-easy recipes are a hit with the whole family.
Time Out: 136 pages
Available: $12.95 at Amazon and most book retailers
* Reprinted with permission from Ulysses Press. May not be reproduced without publisher permission.
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