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Good old Mac with a twist or two! You can make it as kiddie-friendly or adult-sophisticated as you wish by choosing your cheese accordingly: from mild-sweet Gouda for the kiddie version to a strong, mature and aged cheddar or even Gruyere for the over-30’s. And if you are in the mood to flash a bit of cash, add some real Parmesan and substitute the ham for pukka Italian pancetta. As too the white sauce, you can make it thicker or thinner or make even more sauce, if you love a saucy Mac!

Mac & Chicken-Cheese with Ham & Tomato

Ingredients


  • 250 g spiral pasta (cavatappi) or elbow macaroni
  • salt or any garlic & herb salt mix that you fancy
  • 180 ml spring onion white tops, thinly sliced
  • 80 g cheddar cheese, cut into 1-cm size dice
  • 80 g smoked or plain mozzarella, cut into 1-cm dice
  • 15 ml olive oil and a nugget of butter
  • 2 chicken breast fillets, cut into short, thin strips (about 1 cm x 5 cm)
  • 6 thick slices tasty ham, cut into small dice
  • 250 ml Rosa tomatoes, cut into small dice
  • 1,250 litres prepared Béchamel Sauce/White Sauce (Click here for recipe)
  • for topping: a little grated mozzarella cheese and more Rosa tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters



Chef's hint: We love seeing the little specs of oozing cheese in our Mac & Cheese dishes. That's why we dice the cheese and not add it to the sauce to melt. But you can do whatever you fancy ... grate your cheese and even add it to your sauce. That is what good cooking is about: your own taste and style. If you love onions, add 30 ml grated white onion to the macaroni mixture. Or, add as many thin slices of the green spring onion tops as you like. You can also increase the cheese content for more yum. Now who'd say 'no' to a tasty bowl of oozing cheese-n-onion macaroni?

Method


Bring a large pot of well-salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook according to pack instructions, but remove it from the heat 2 minutes before the end of the specified cooking time. The reason is that the pasta will cook some more in the oven and if you start with too-soft pasta, you may end with a stodgy result.

Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water, drain again, pat dry and place in a large mixing bowl. Splash in a little olive oil, add the spring onion and cheeses and mix lightly. Cover and set aside until required.

Heat the 15 ml oil and butter in a large frying pan and add the chicken strips. Stir-fry on high for a minute or so until the chicken turns white, no longer. Season the chicken to taste then add it to the pasta mixture together with the ham and the 250 ml tomato dice.

Pour in the Béchamel sauce and mix lightly but well. Make sure the mixture is seasoned well then pour it into a large oven dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Sprinkle the top with a little bit of grated mozzarella cheese and push in the extra Rosa tomato halves or quarters.

Bake in the oven preheated to 200º C just until it's piping hot and the sauce bubbles through the surface, no longer.

Remove from the oven and serve with a crisp, fresh salad.

Serves 6 generously