Creamy Mac, Chicken, and Cheese
Serves 8 to 10
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish
½ pound short, bite-size pasta such as penne, ziti, shells, bow ties, or orecchiette
2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
3½ cups cooked shredded chicken (from 3½ to 4-pound roasted chicken)
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1½ ounces)
8 ounces fresh spinach, washed, stems removed, and drained (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce (Tabasco or Texas Pete)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir, and cook until al dente. Drain in a colander and transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and toss to coat.
3. Melt the butter with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t brown.
4. Stir in the milk and cream, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by half and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes.
5. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the chicken, Cheddar, Parmesan, spinach, marjoram, hot sauce, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Stir until the cheeses have melted and the spinach is wilted. Pour into the bowl with the pasta and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Taste for salt and pepper and season with more to taste.
6. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish, scraping all the sauce out of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and bake for about 45 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and the pasta is slightly brown on top. Let the pasta rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.