Samir & Taylor’s Spinach & Artichoke Mac ‘n Cheese with Pesto Chicken and Bacon

Samir and Taylor made this last night and it was incredibly delicious – truly a new high in Mac ‘n Cheese. They made the whole thing in a cast iron skillet, which I love, too. Thanks, you guys!

2 Tbsp Butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of milk
two big handfuls of spinach leaves
1 can of artichoke hearts, drained
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups pasta (they used shells)
2 cups of mozzarella
1 cup of cheddar
1 cup of parmesan cheese
1/2 package of turkey bacon or real bacon (optional)
1 1/2 lbs chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup pesto

Marinate chicken chunks with pesto,and put in an ovenproof dish, covered with aluminum foil. In a baking pan, lay bacon slices. Bake both at 375 for an hour or so. Stir chicken half way through and recover with foil. Remove crispy bacon from oven, drain and break it up. Remove chicken and save liquid from baking pan.

Melt butter in a cast iron skillet. Saute garlic until it’s lightly browned. Reduce heat and add spinach and artichoke hearts. Saute until spinach is wilted.

Add milk, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, add pasta and cook for 10 minutes,(al dente) stirring occasionally to make sure the pasta is thoroughly covered.

Once the noodles are cooked, add cheddar cheese. Stir in and then slowly add the mozzarella stirring gently. Add a little liquid from chicken if the sauce gets too thick. (You want a creamier sauce.) Add bacon. Check seasonings.

Top with Parmesan and bake at 450 for 10 minutes or so, then broil it for a few minutes until the top is lovely browned and crispy. Add the chicken chunks and broil for one more minute.

Note: Could leave out the chicken and bacon for a vegetarian version. Just add the pesto with the milk.

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