This Tuscan-inspired casserole is just about as easy as making regular mac and cheese, but it’s a whole lot tastier and easily feeds a big family or a small crowd. Or make a bunch and take leftovers to work for lunch.
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Rotisserie Chicken Tuscan Mac and Cheese
This Tuscan-inspired casserole is just about as easy as making regular mac and cheese, but it's a whole lot tastier and easily feeds a big family or a small crowd. Or make a bunch and take leftovers to work for lunch.
A Few Key Ingredients
You don't need a lengthy list of ingredients to make this dinner dish either. Just a few key elements really bring the flavor.
• Pimento peppers
• Fresh basil
Those are the major players. Add in some chicken stock, a seasoned rotisserie chicken, some creamy half and half and maybe a sprinkle of cayenne pepper if you want to add some heat. Easy peasy.
Optional Ingredients for Olive Garden-style Flavor
You can stir in a handful of fresh spinach leaves if you're really craving the style of Tuscan chicken you'd find at Olive Garden. They also sneak in a splash of white wine. Feel free to do there here too if you want to really get fancy. Totally not necessary though, you will get plenty of flavor without so I'll leave that up to you.
Short Cuts to Make this So Easy on Yourself
First, grab a rotisserie chicken. The classic rotisserie chicken seasoning is a perfect match with the Tuscan flavor of the mac and cheese. This saves loads of time but you won't sacrifice flavor or even pay a fortune.
Next big time-saving tip (read: less clean up) is to cook everything in one pan.
A cast iron skillet or a dutch oven will do the job.
You can boil the noodles first, then move them to a colander to drain while you make the creamy sauce in the same skillet or dutch oven.
The skillet makes for a really nice presentation and easy serving since it's wide an open but a dutch oven (or a large pot) will have taller sides so easier to boil things. Your choice. But the tip is to use one pan so you're saving a large dish to wash.
Done in 15 minutes
Maybe even less. Really. This all comes together really quickly so it's an excellent weeknight dinner idea. It's one of those easy dinners that's also fancy enough to serve to guests so if you like hosting people over for dinner but you don't always have a ton of time, this might be a great solution for you.
Add Parmesan for an extra punch of flavor.
Just a little more yum. Optional but definitely tasty!
Check out step by step how to make this recipe:
Tips for Melting the Cheese Sauce
The illusive homemade cheese sauce seems like it should be so easy. Just melt some cheese into some liquid—milk, broth, etc.—and you get a cheese sauce right? Well it doesn't always go that smoothly. Literally. Many times you can end up with a chunky or grainy sauce.
So for best results, whisk everything together over low heat without bringing it to a boil to get the cheese to really play nicely with the liquids. If the cheese gets too hot that's what causes it to get grainy and it's close to impossible to get it back to smooth once it's gotten grainy. Patiently whisking over a small amount of heat is the way to go.
I think the reason why this is such a common problem is because it seems counter intuitive. Your brain wants to tell you to heat up the sauce more to get those chunks to melt so you bring it to a boil but that's exactly what you don't want to do. Low and slow actually does the job. Remember this tip and you'll have smooth cheese sauce for life!
What to Serve with this Tuscan Chicken Mac and Cheese Casserole
You can serve this dish with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts (or any roasted vegetable), a side salad, and some crusty bread.
This meal pairs well with red or white wine and you could offer fresh cracked black pepper and fresh grated Parmesan cheese as toppings if you want to be a little extra. 🙂
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Rotisserie Chicken Tuscan Mac and Cheese
- 4 cups cooked macaroni noodles
- 1 rotisserie chicken
- ½ cup butter
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 2 tablespoon flour
- 3 cups half and half or milk
- 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
- 4 oz diced pimento peppers, drained
- 2 tablespoon fresh basil chopped
- Pinch of cayenne pepper Optional
- Grated Parmesan cheese to taste Optional
- Cook and drain pasta.
- Melt butter over medium-high heat in the same cast iron skillet or pot used to boil the pasta.
- Once melted, add and saute garlic for 1 minute.
- Add chicken stock cube. Break up and stir into butter with a whisk. Then whisk in flour.
- Next pour in half and half or milk, then stir in Italian cheeses, pimentos and fresh basil. Add a cayenne pepper to taste if you want to add some heat. (reserve Parmesan cheese for later)
- Reduce heat to medium-low and whisk until cheese melts and sauce becomes thickened. Don't let it boil or the cheese may separate and the sauce may become grainy.
- Stir in cooked pasta with a large spoon and remove from heat.
- Slice off chicken breast from a warm rotisserie chicken and cut into slices or bite sized pieces and place on top of the mac and cheese for serving. Top with grated Parmesan cheese right before enjoying.